As we are approaching Spring Break, things are beginning to wind down around my daily job. Unfortunately, it has given me an opportunity to reflect on some things more deeply…in this case, the current fiscal situation of our state and Higher Education.
I say this with great apprehension and woe but “I have to say that I am truly worried about my future (employment)”.
The fiscal year 2015-2016 is coming to a close (July 1) and many college and universities have not received any fiscal assistance from the State in the last 8 months. Bills and debts are racking up and there seems to be no clear solution in sight. Many are aware Higher education has been suffering for many years, taking more and more cuts and taking in less and less tuition from new & continuing students. This has forced many colleges and universities to cut, consolidate, and improvise but the time has come where there is no more fat to trim and serious actions need to be taken in order to continue to keep the doors open.
Just today, it was announced that John A. Logan College approved 55 faculty and staff layoffs (with more cuts potentially planned for down the road). Full-time faculty make up 35 of the 55 faculty whose jobs were at risk. Many of the universities in Illinois have been able to weather the cuts more easily so far but unfortunately it seems smaller universities and colleges may be forced to take substantial cuts or possibly face shutting down until the fiscal situation can be resolved.
While I am concerned about myself and what the future may hold, I can’t help but think about how many lives will be affected as the fiscal situation of Higher Education in Illinois slowly begins to implode. Highly educated faculty and staff out of work; students young and old who are unable to start, continue, or finish the paths they have chosen without considering options outside of Illinois; student unable to advance or compete in the job market because they are not able to obtain the skills they need or the degree to advance; or those faculty and staff who remain who are expected to do more with less.
While for the short term, I think my job is secure but I by no-mean think my job is safe or protected. In light of all the recent news of state layoffs & cutbacks, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t keeping me up at night. All this…in addition to the fact that I have had several co-workers and family (in their later years in life) who have lost employment within the last year or two. But that being said, I do know I do have options if worse comes to worse. I guess it’s just this feeling of being caught in a game of “bait & switch”. You’re told, “Play the game. Put in your time. Build up your pension…and when the time comes, you’ll retire and live a comfortable life.” Now, it seems I will have to work longer…my pension & retirement benefits will be less…and if you need to make a change, you will have to uproot yourself from family, friends, and your home to do so.
Sorry for this not being one of my light, cheery-hearted posts that I usually write but it is something that is weighing heavily on my mind…as I’m sure many other Illinoisans. I’m sure many of you have a take on this whole situation. Feel free to chime in.