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State's Budget Impasse Costs Hundreds Of Northeastern University Students Their Campus Jobs

Northeastern Illinois University announced Friday its employees will have to take five furlough days this month due to the ongoing state budget impasse, triggering a new state rule that requires the school to terminate hundreds of student workers from their on-campus jobs.

The announcement from Northeastern comes as some state universities and colleges struggle to stay afloat financially due to Illinois’ historic budget impasse. The political stalemate between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic legislative leaders has derailed efforts to pass a budget for nearly two years, and state universities have not received any money from the state since the beginning of the year.

“Now more than ever our elected officials in Springfield must recognize the operational and reputational damage done due to our financial starvation,” interim Northeastern President Richard Helldobler said in a statement.

Northeastern estimates 300 students will lose their campus jobs, including students who tutor or answer the phones. That’s due to a new state rule that forces universities to kick some students out of their jobs before they furlough any civil service workers. The rule was created to make sure schools were making as many cuts as possible without going beyond furloughs, in hopes of avoiding more drastic money-saving measures such as laying off employees or shuttering entire academic departments.

The university announced the furloughs will take place later this month during its spring break.

One union representing Northeastern employees, University Professionals of Illinois, has not agreed to the furloughs. In a statement, UPI President John Miller blamed “Gov. Bruce Rauner’s failed leadership” for the lack of a budget that funds universities.

“This is the second consecutive year where the university furloughed the hard-working staff and faculty to simply keep the doors open,” Miller said. “Our students, employees, and state deserve better.”

A spokesman for the university said it is “actively negotiating” with its collective bargaining units, but declined to give any further details.

Beth Purvis, the Rauner administration's Secretary of Education, responded with a statement Friday afternoon.

"Higher education has been negatively impacted by the General Assembly’s failure to pass a balanced budget, and this decision underscores the importance and urgent need for the Senate to reach a bipartisan compromise that is good for students, job creators and taxpayers," she said in the statement.

Tony Arnold covers state politics for WBEZ. You can follow him at @tonyjarnold.

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