CHICAGO — The fiscal strain in Illinois that has led to record long bill payment delays this week prompted Moody’s Investors Service to downgrade five of eight state-supported universities that are owed $735 million by the state.

The move comes as the universities held a news conference Wednesday and released a letter sent last week asking Gov. Pat Quinn and Comptroller Dan Hynes to establish a payment schedule on the $735 million in late payments. “We are all surprised that things could get as perilous as they are,” said University of Illinois interim president Stan Ikenberry.

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