- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois’ state budget impasse could affect the accreditation of universities in the state that have seen deep cuts in state funding in the nearly three years lawmakers have failed to agree on a spending plan.

The Higher Learning Commission, which accredits schools in the Midwest, recently issued a letter cautioning lawmakers that a lack of funding places Illinois universities at risk of losing their accreditation. The commission is obligated to sanction schools that are unable to provide necessary academic programs and financial aid.

The commission’s president, Barbara Gellman-Danley, wrote that the budget crisis has led to increased tuition, delays in grants for financially needy students, staff reductions and canceled capital projects. She said diminished cash reserves will hurt students.

“Institutions exhibiting these problems, regardless of cause, are still subject to HLC standards that require the availability of appropriate financial, physical, and human resources,” Gelman-Danley wrote. “Some institutions may ultimately face withdrawal of accreditation. Students attending institutions that do not have status with an accrediting agency recognized by the federal government cannot access federal financial aid.”

Southern Illinois University-Carbondale President Randy Dunn said losing accreditation could make it difficult to hire more staff.

The budgets recently proposed by Democrats and Republicans would cut funding by 10 percent.

The state’s universities haven’t received funding since 2016. Stopgap funds haven’t been sufficient to delay faculty and staff cuts, along with other reductions at several Illinois campuses.

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