Western Illinois University
$4 million has been spent on plans for a performing arts center at Western Illinois University, but the project now is on hold.

Funds no longer available for planned higher education projects in Illinois

Sept. 6, 2017
State has spent more than $14 million on projects at 5 universities, but the projects never made it out of the planning phase.

Eight years after Illinois approved a capital plan for universities in the state, half of the largest new projects at state schools never began construction and now have been canceled or indefinitely halted.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the state put more than $14 million toward five major higher education projects that were approved but never made it out of the planning phase.

Those facilities — slated for Western Illinois University, Illinois State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago State University and the University of Illinois at Chicago — were approved in 2009, but never received full funding to begin construction.

A spokesman for Gov. Bruce Rauner says the bond funds intended to pay for the projects have run out and that the legislature did not include those items among expenditures approved in the new budget.

 Even if more money became available, the initial designs and construction plans would have to be updated and project costs would be larger after such a long wait.

The projects were part of the 2009 Illinois Jobs Now! initiative. It included $1.6 billion in authorized spending for higher education, including community colleges and private institutions as well as state-owned schools.

This spring, the state legislature's bipartisan research office, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, reported that the capital program has run its course after selling only $12.7 billion of capital bonds.

Now, the only way the universities can get state capital funds for the five stalled projects is to compete for limited annual capital dollars — or hope the governor and legislature pass a new multi-year capital program with additional revenue to support it.

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