College officials warn of more layoffs if budget fight continues

A week after Harper College in Palatine and College of Lake County announced dozens of layoffs because of the state's budget standoff, statewide education officials pleaded with lawmakers to reach an agreement and free up funding soon.

Illinois Community College Board Chairman Laz Lopez, an administrator at Northwest Suburban High School District 214, said colleges statewide have raised questions about their viability for the fall semester and that more layoffs could be coming.

"There is significant fear that there are institutions that will have a very difficult time opening the doors this fall," Lopez said.

Universities and community colleges haven't received any state payments since Illinois missed a July 1 budget deadline. Deeply divided state lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner now face trying to both finish up that budget nearly a year late while at the same time crafting a new once for next year.

Democrats and Republicans have dueling views on how to deal with the college cash crisis, and Rauner has vetoed a Democratic attempt to send at least some money out.

Republicans argue Democrats' attempts don't consider the state doesn't have the money to make the college payments even if lawmakers given them the opportunity.

Lopez and Illinois Board of Higher Education Chairman Tom Cross didn't offer a specific way forward, saying it should be up to lawmakers and Rauner how to proceed. Both Cross and Lopez were appointed to their posts by the governor.

"The ingredients are all there," Cross said. "All they have to do is put the cake together."

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