By Jamey Dunn
The Senate passed a measure today that would allow public universities to borrow money to keep their doors open and pay faculty and staff.
"If these universities cannot receive the cash flow they need to operate, they will close their doors,” said bill sponsor Sen. William Haine, an Alton Democrat.
The money would be borrowed in anticipation of payments from the state, which owes more than $900 million to the universities. Each school could borrow up to 75 percent of what the state owes it.
The bill puts the decision to borrow in the hands of the universities’ boards of trustees. State government will not be on the hook for the debt, which must be repaid within a year.
“[It’s] a stopgap measure, but by no means does it solve the financial crisis or the chronic under funding of our public universities,” Southern Illinois University President Glenn Poshard said.
Republican critics said there is no clear plan for repayment of the loans and that borrowing is just pushing the problem off to a later date. “We cannot continue to borrow,” said Sen. Dan Duffy, a Lake Barrington Republican.