Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Sara Wittmeyer

Sara Wittmeyer is the News Bureau Chief for WFIU and WTIU. Sara has more than a decade of experience as a news reporter and previously served with KBIA at the University of Missouri, WNKU at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, KY, and at WCPO News in Cincinnati.

Will Illinois Budget Woes Force College Students To Indiana?

The lack of a budget in Illinois means state universities are losing millions of dollars to operate, and could lead to tuition increases. Will this lead more Illinois students to enroll at Indiana schools?

Eastern Illinois University is one state university in Illinois dealing with huge budget shortfalls because of a loss of millions of dollars in state funding. The Illinois legislature and governor are at a stale mate passing a budget, meaning state funding is on hold. (photo credit: Harrison Wagner/WTIU News).

Illinois’ public colleges are in trouble and it could have an impact on higher education in Indiana. It’s more than halfway into the fiscal year and Illinois’ Republican governor and Democratic-controlled legislature are still deadlocked over the state budget.

The impasse means the state’s 12 public universities and 48 community colleges haven’t received a penny of state funding for nine months.

It’s a nerve-wracking time for students. They’re on the line for tuition because the state isn’t paying out money for grants and scholarships, making out of state tuition in Indiana more affordable than before.

Higher Education In Illinois Is In Trouble

Eastern Illinois Freshmen Kaitlyn Reposh and Jenny Cisneros find themselves in a difficult position.

“We all care about our school, and we don’t want it to close down,” says Cisneros.

They’re at home walking through campus, but in some ways feels like they’re standing by and watching it die by a thousand cuts.

“We’re not just here because we want to go to a college away from home. We actually want to be here.”

But that decision isn’t totally Cisneros’ to make.

Eastern Illinois is struggling. Lawmakers’ failure to pass a state budget this year means public universities have gotten no money.

At EIU that amounts to $40 million for operations and another $7-9 million for grants for low-income students.

Universities are dipping into their reserves and emergency funds to stay afloat, but as the impasse heads into its ninth month, the cuts are getting deeper and more noticeable.

“Even last night my friend was saying in her math class they always provided graph paper but the teacher was saying, ‘oh no, we don’t have the money for graph paper, we don’t have the money for this because of all the budget cuts and everything,’” Cisneros said.

Eastern laid off nearly 200 employees and is requiring others to take furlough days. The friends can’t help but feel anxious.

“I know all of my teachers have talked about it in every single class,” says Reposh. “And the teachers seem scared, and if you’re professors seem worried then it makes the students seem worried too.”

“Right now I’m trying to be optimistic about it but if it comes down to it where there’s really just not any hope then I’m definitely going to need to look at new schools,” says Cisneros.

Eastern’s president David Glassman declined our request for an interview, but in an effort to ease concerns and also to dispel rumors he penned a letter to students this week saying he expects the state appropriation soon and reiterated that the university is not closing.

Will Illinois Students Enroll In Indiana?

John Beacon, Indiana State University senior vice-president for enrollment marketing and communications, says there are a lot of places Illinois students can look if they want to transfer.

“If you’re a student at a school like that how confident are you going to be to continue there?” he says. “So there’s a natural tendency for some students to think about transferring elsewhere.”

Wisconsin, Iowa, and Purdue already draw a lot of Illinois students, but in some ways ISU is uniquely positioned. The campus is only about 40 miles from EIU and the towns are quite similar.

“Certainly the local students who go to Eastern Illinois University from those counties probably chose Eastern because of their location.” Beacon says. “Because we’re close to them, I would anticipate if there are students who are looking to transfer from Eastern they would look at us because we’re very similar in many ways.”

Indiana has seen a gradual increase this year in the number of students enrolling from Illinois, but the Indiana Commission for Higher Education says it’s too early to say whether that’s connected to Illinois’ budget impasse.

If students do increasingly keep transferring from Illinois there will be even less money flowing into schools in the form of tuition.

And as Eastern’s president wrote: “Without the state supporting public universities, the cost in tuition would become unaffordable for most Illinois citizens who would then leave Illinois to seek their higher education.”

The stalemate in Illinois isn’t expected to be over anytime soon.

WBEZ reported that Gov. Bruce Rauner gave lawmakers two options during his budget address last week: give him the power to make $4 billion in cuts or pass his reforms in exchange for a $35 billion budget.

Some politicos are speculating the governor and the legislature won’t come to terms until after the state’s primary election in March. Others think the political infighting will continue and there won’t be a budget this year.

That will be too late for some schools. Chicago State administrators told the General Assembly this week that in March the school will run out of money and be forced to close its doors.


Seven Oaks Classical Charter School To Open In Monroe Co.

Seven Oaks Classical School in Monroe County could open by August.

Seven Oaks Classical School in Monroe County could open by August. (photo credit: Seven Oaks Classical School)

Seven Oaks Charter School could open in Monroe County this August.

Seven Oaks has been trying for four years to get approval for its school. The state charter boarddenied the school’s request in 2014 and last year the school withdrew its application after state board staff recommended denial. 

The board of trustees of Grace College and Theological Seminary voted to authorize the charter at its meeting Jan. 13.

Grace College currently authorizes two other charter schools in the state: Smith Academy for Excellence in Fort Wayne and Dugger Union Community School in Dugger.

The work begins now for Seven Oaks to find a building and staff.

In a press release announcing the charter’s approval, the board stressed that Seven Oaks will not teach with a religious slant event though it is authorized by a Christian college.

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Indiana Will Pay For Pre-K, But Questions About Cost & Quality Remain

A student looks through a book about fruit and flowers at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus, Ind.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

A student looks through a book about fruit and flowers at Busy Bees Academy, a publicly-funded preschool in Columbus.

Walk through the halls of Busy Bees Academy, a publicly-funded preschool in Columbus, and director Cathne Holliday says you’ll notice something different

“Everyone has a stake in each child’s education,” she says.

Teachers here are charged with preparing each of the school’s 115 4-year-olds for kindergarten.

“We’re also just giving them a foundation for learning,” says Holliday.

Indiana used to be one of 10 states that didn’t provide any state dollars for preschool — and public programs like Busy Bees were the exception, not the rule. But that’s about to change as Gov. Mike Pence is expected to sign legislation that creates a small-scale voucher-style pre-K program for low-income Hoosier kids. Continue Reading

Updated: Gov. Daniels Will Be Purdue University's Next President

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels could be the next president of Purdue University, according to a report from WISH-TV.

UPDATE, 3:15 p.m.: Gov. Mitch Daniels will be selected as Purdue University’s next president on Thursday, WFIU-FM/WTIU-TV has confirmed, citing a source close to the governor.

WISH-TV first broke the story Tuesday afternoon:

Purdue University officials plan to vote on a candidate for the school’s next president this week – and WISH-TV has learned Gov. Mitch Daniels is the candidate in question.

The Purdue Board of Trustees will meet at 10 a.m. Thursday in Steward Center’s Loeb Playhouse to vote on a nominee to be the school’s 12th president. Several sources close to the proceedings tells WISH-TV that the nominee is Daniels. After the vote, the president-elect will be introduced, the school said in a news release.

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Why Indiana Still Doesn't Fund Preschool Programs

Sara Wittmeyer / WFIU

A craft project created by Pre-K students at Penny Lane West School in Bloomington.

A bill poised for passage in the Indiana General Assembly would provide $80 million to fully fund all-day kindergarten programs, which many educators consider a step forward.

Preschool programs are another story.

Even as the Pew Center on the States reports other states have doubled their investment in Pre-K programs over the past decade, Indiana’s one of only 11 states that don’t provide families any money for preschool.

Educators say a “convergence” of research confirms preschool’s importance. But lawmakers say it’s not a question of importance — it’s a question of preschool’s cost. Continue Reading

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