By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader
Heaven is the best place to go, but Chicago State isn’t so bad either.
It’s a message dozens of the Black pastors preached last Sunday in churches in the city. Chicago State University is a predominately Black college on the South Side that continues to struggle amid financial woes that deepened after the state’s budget crisis.
Enter Congressman Danny K. Davis a prominent alumni who declared last Sunday, ‘Chicago State Day,’ to help boost the school’s image and enrollment after a devastating state budget crisis forced the institution to go nearly a year without millions in funding. By April, the school had only $7.3 million, according to news reports. Since the beginning of the year, Chicago State has laid off nearly 400 employees, or 40 percent of its staff.
In April, Governor Bruce Rauner approved to fund $21 million that would help the school through the fall semester. With a projected enrollment decline of about 20 percent, Chicago State officials expect tuition revenue to decline. Last year, about 4,500 students were enrolled at Chicago State. The 150-year-old public university has cut its budget for the coming year by about 30 percent, to $70 million, according to university President Thomas Calhoun Jr.
In churches last Sunday, pastors talked about Chicago State’s affordability and history of helping Black students. Most important, many will talk about the school’s need for support as it strives to provide a quality education in nurturing, predominately Black student environment.
Congressman Danny K. Davis conceived the idea after seeing the impact of the budget crisis on Chicago State. It’s the only predominately Black four-year college in Illinois. The school is not an official Historic Black College and University (HBCU) because it was not around when many schools were given the designation during slavery or Reconstruction. To Davis and thousands of alumni, the school is still important to students who cannot afford a college education elsewhere. Chicago State has one of the most prestigious pharmaceutical programs in the country.
“Chicago State has a bunch of outstanding programs,” said Davis, who has a master’s degree from the school. “It’s an institution that should be supported by the African American community. Many of our people do better in a nurturing environment.”