Chicago State collecting keys from faculty and students

CHICAGO (AP) — Employees and students at Chicago State University are being asked to turn in their keys to campus facilities in an example of how the lack of a state budget is affecting higher education in Illinois.

The financially troubled university on Chicago’s South Side has been at risk of running out of money as Illinois’ public colleges and universities have waited since July for state funding held up by the budget standoff in Springfield.

The campus in February sent notices of potential layoffs to all 900 employees and declared a financial emergency. University President Thomas Calhoun eliminated spring break and announced the semester will end April 28 instead of May 13 for its roughly 4,500 students.

Then on Monday, administrator Aleshia Renee Terry asked deans to begin collecting keys from faculty, staff, administrators and students “as soon as possible,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

“Every key must be collected including master keys and special lock keys,” she wrote. “We are attempting to complete the key collecting process by April 4.”

University spokesman Tom Wogan said the school has enough cash to make payroll through April 30. The school receives about a third of its budget, or about $36 million, from the state.

“If the state continues to deny funding to public universities, institutions like CSU will have to make difficult decisions moving forward including the possibility of additional layoffs,” Wogan said. “In preparation for that reality, logistical steps must be taken to protect state property, including collecting keys.”

Despite its financial problems, the university announced Tuesday it would open registration for the summer and fall semesters next week. Officials at the university also said the next academic year would have no increases in tuition, which totals about $11,800 a year including fees.

“We’re stuck between being optimistic and realistic,” Wogan said. “That’s a tough place to be.”