Bernie Sanders’ message resonates at Southern Illinois University

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EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — Sen. Bernie Sanders' call for free higher education is resonating on an Illinois college campus facing deep cuts in state funding amid an eight-month budget impasse.

The Democratic presidential candidate spoke Friday morning at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where the primarily student audience packed a 4,000-seat campus basketball arena, including on the gym floor and outer hallways.

Sanders touched on familiar campaign themes, calling for campaign finance reform, marijuana decriminalization and increased corporate taxes.

Southern Illinois is among the schools that have had to front scholarship money to students to cover expenses in the current school year. The Illinois governor and lawmakers remain unable to agree on a budget for the fiscal year that began in July 2015. The state's budget troubles have led to widespread layoffs at other state schools.