Northeastern Illinois University is laying off 180 full-time workers, a quarter of its administrative staff, according to the university’s interim president, Richard Helldobler, who blamed the layoffs directly on the state’s historic budget impasse.
“As a professor, I’m accustomed to giving grades,” Helldobler said at a press conference announcing the layoffs. “If I had to give a grade to Springfield for the handling of our state’s budget, they’d get an ‘F.’”
Helldobler announced the cuts on Tuesday, which is also the state’s 700th day with no budget. Helldobler said 130 of those who will receive layoff notices are civil service employees. The remainder will be administrative professionals. Helldobler said the move is expected to reduce a $10.8 million shortfall by $9 million through September.
The university said that the budget impasse has reduced its funding by more than $40 million over a two-year period.
Faculty are not included in this round of layoffs. However, the school has gone through two rounds of furloughs, in which staff — including faculty — took temporary 20 percent pay cuts.
Northeastern, located on Chicago’s North Side, serves a diverse student population, and charges relatively low tuition. Helldobler said many Northeastern students are the first in their families to go to college.
“For students who are first-generation students, or minority students… it’s not just about navigating content. It’s about navigating the educational system,” he said.
“And when you have fewer people who can do that hand-holding, and that shepherding and that mentoring, that of course impacts the number of students who can be successful going forward,” he said.
“The mood on campus is what you would expect when the university president is standing before the press eliminating 180 jobs,” Helldobler said.
Dan Weissmann is a reporter for WBEZ. You can follow him at @danweissmann.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.