Illinois budget crisis forces professors to incur state-covered expenses

Amid an ongoing budget crisis in the State of Illinois, Northern Illinois University faculty members are feeling the effects of the state’s economic hardships.

Various state employees have been impacted by the budget impasse, including NIU faculty members who have been saddled with the burdens of a lack of available funds.

In cost cutting efforts, some faculty have parted with their office telephones and have been required to give up their office printers, instead sharing a communal printer with the other faculty for each department.

“The biggest effect the budget crisis has had is we’ve all had to make sacrifices … we’ve been asked to give up our telephones, we’ve been asked to give up our individual printers and of course there is no travel money for state employees for conference travel,” said Betty La France, NIU department of communication professor.

Each of these cost-cutting procedures have been implemented to save as much money for the university as possible.

Another byproduct of this ongoing budget crisis is that some faculty members are being asked to pay for medical expenses up front, when visiting a doctor or dentist, due to fears that the state of Illinois will not reimburse these medical expenses, according to La France.

While giving up her office phone – thus having to use her personal cell phone for business calls – and deciding whether she wants to pay for conference travel are both expenses she is now saddled with, she says these pale in comparison to an even bigger expense she’s being burdened with, as a result of the budget crisis.

“The biggest financial transfer of burden has been the insurance issue, because even though I pay a monthly premium for my spouse and I, I have been asked by two different doctors and a dentist to pay cash out of pocket for an office visit,” La France said. “So that means I’m both a cash paying customer at that moment, and an insurance customer because of course I’ve paid my monthly premium.”

La France says that state reimbursement is either slow or not happening at all, depending on what health care plan each individual has. When reimbursements are made, it could be between 15 to 18 months, La France said.

Another professor, Katy Cady, NIU department of communication professor, shares her thoughts on this issue here:

“Something has to be done,” La France said. “We have to get a budget. The budget has to recognize the mission of a state university.”

To share your thoughts on this story, contact Governor Bruce Rauner here.

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