WIU President says $20 million in cuts will be painful

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Time has run out for Western Illinois University in getting funding from the state. In an announcement on Friday, $20 million in cuts are coming over the next two years in order to keep the school doors open.

"We have been here for 117 years, and we plan on being here 117 more years and beyond. In order to do that, we have to make those tough, very difficult decisions," WIU President Jack Thomas said.

University President Jack Thomas says that the cash reserves have nearly run dry, and without the near $52 million from the state, tough choices had to be made.

In the cuts, 100 jobs are being eliminated at every level, offices are getting shorter hours or closing, and the University is now on a hiring freeze.

"We are a very family-oriented University, but then, when you have to do certain things like this, you become very unpopular," Thomas said.

Thomas says it is a heartbreaking decision to make these cuts, but he says his hands are tied because of the stalemate in Springfield.

"They have their own reasons for holding out. The thing they say is that they all understand and they apologize for what we are dealing with," Thomas said.

An apology won't be enough to save those jobs, and Thomas says that if the budget hold-out lasts later through the year, even more cuts could be on the way.

As the cuts take effect, Thomas says he will continue to lobby for a budget agreement, something to stop from having the tough decisions be made.

"We're caught in the middle, and we're feeling the pain. This is affecting families, and these are very difficult decisions that we're making," Thomas said.

Mandatory furloughs for some staff members will begin April 1st. Thomas says that the cuts will have an impact on both the Macomb and Quad Cities campuses, although it's unclear right now what that impact will be.

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