There are about 4,700 students that have serious concerns right now.
On Friday in an official statement, Chicago State University let it be known that they’d be laying off a good portion of its 900 employees —including the president who made the announcement. The drastic decision comes after months of back-and-forth debate over spending and state funding.
“The actions taken today are necessary to fulfill our legal obligation and to make necessary reductions so that we can continue running the University in the absence of state funds,” CSU President Thomas Calhoun Jr., said in a statement. “It is our sincere hope that the Governor and legislative leaders will do the right thing and provide funding for public universities before these layoffs would have to be executed.”
But if one looks deeper into their financial issues, it actually shows a sign of the times when majority Black colleges and universities don’t receive the same amount of vital support they did in the past.
As noted by CSU’s website, they rank first in Illinois for awarding bachelor’s degrees to African Americans in the physical sciences, health professions and related sciences. And they rank fourth in the state in awarding baccalaureate degrees to Latino Students in education.
According to The Washington Post, the historically black school [not officially recognized as an HBCU] is among 57 public universities and colleges in Illinois that have not received funding in eight months as Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and the Democratic-controlled general assembly fail to agree on a budget. Nearly a third of Chicago State’s funding, about $36 million a year, comes from state appropriations.
Notable alumni from the university include four House of Representative members, Black LGBT activist Juba Kalamka, and Kanye West who attended to study English but dropped out to pursue music. His late mother, Prof. Donda West was Chair of the English Department at CSU.
Sadly, the school that is over 70 percent African-American, is floundering to find its next endowment. Lower endowments, enrollment and alumni giveback all affect the financial status of majority Black schools. In turn, this can affect accreditation that often takes years to get back, if they are unable to show that they have the resources needed to provide students a quality education.
In a report by Business Insider, University of Pennsylvania education professor Marybeth Gasman — who heads the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), addresses the issue with majority Black schools. “State-level funding for public colleges used to be based on enrollment criteria, not outcome — which is tied to factors such as graduate rate,” Gasman explained. Since public HBCUs tend to enroll a greater number of low-income underprepared students, who are less likely to graduate from college, their funding has taken a hit in many states across the country.
Overall, Gasman emphasized, people need to better understand the contributions of HBCUs on a national scale, both for providing academic opportunities to African-Americans and for opening doors to higher education for a diverse range of students.
While it’s unclear what the immediate solution will be, CSU can only hope that the state or some really wealthy alumni come to the rescue for the many students who simply want a good education.