Graduate Program

College Student Affairs

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion

Spring 2022

Thesis Director

Ken Wetstein

Thesis Committee Member

Jon K. Coleman

Thesis Committee Member

Mark A. Hudson


This study explores the lived experiences of administrators who led their institutions through the two-year Illinois budget impasse. This study also reviewed archival evidence of measures taken by public regional universities in Illinois to mitigate the loss of state appropriations. Previous research has shown that the business model of public higher education in the United States is undergoing disruption. Changing demographics, enrollment concerns, and rising tuition were just some of these issues pressuring public institutions of higher education. The temporary loss of state appropriations exacerbated these issues and had long-lasting effects even after the Illinois budget impasse ended. In order to understand the Illinois budget impasse and its affects on regional public universities in Illinois, four administrators from two public universities in Illinois were interviewed, two from each university. In addition, archival documents including Board of Trustee meeting minutes and student publications were researched in order to supplement information shared during the interviews. The study reveals that the loss of state appropriations for public universities forced them to use reserve funds to cover costs, reduce spending, downsize personnel, and adopt cultures of austerity that continue even after state appropriations are made available again.