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CSU fighting for the future


More than 800 Chicago State University students received their diplomas Thursday in an early ceremony moved up weeks for fear the school would run out of money and shut down due to an ongoing state budget impasse.

A last-minute, $600-million higher education deal will, for now, keep the doors open at Chicago State, Eastern Illinois University and other state schools. But the stop gap plan isn’t enough to offset the long-term damage that’s been done as the schools have gone nearly a year without any state support. Layoffs and program cuts are still expected at Chicago State and other schools.

Senator Emil Jones III was at Thursday’s graduation ceremonies – the 358th commencement for the nearly 150-year-old university. As happy as he is for the CSU graduates, he’s equally concerned for the underclassmen who increasingly are victimized by the budget showdown that began when Gov. Bruce Rauner rejected the entire higher education budget last year.

“We’re talking about state schools and students at state schools. The state obviously has a responsibility to these institutions and their students,” said Jones, a Chicago Democrat. “These are our schools and our students. They’ve been abandoned and that’s simply not right.”

Jones said he hopes bipartisan talks will continue and quickly lead to a comprehensive budget deal that restores funding for schools and student aid before Illinois’ once world-renowned higher education system suffers irreparable damage.

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