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The state of Illinois owes more than half a billion dollars to nine public universities, a debt that contributes to rising tuition, spending cuts and growing class sizes.

The backlog as of Sept. 8 topped $550 million. More than half of that was owed to the University of Illinois.

Research grants and other money have helped the U of I. But the school has had to cut some specialized courses, increase the size of classes and offer some courses less often.

Southern Illinois University President Glenn Poshard says his school must set aside money to get through the long periods when state government doesn't pay its bills. He says that without reserves, "we're in big trouble."

Poshard says the state has got to fix its budget problems.

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