(CBS) – More than 6,000 people packed an auditorium at Chicago State University on Thursday evening to hear Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.

Cheers greeted the U.S. senator from Vermont, who played to the crowd by talking about higher education.

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“Why is anybody in the world talking about shutting down colleges?” Sanders said. “What we should be talking about is making public colleges and universities tuition-free.”

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Chicago State University officials have warned of dire consequences if Illinois state lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner don’t approve a budget that includes assistance to public universities.

Sanders still has his work cut out for him in Illinois. Hillary Clinton leads him 51 percent to 32 percent, with 16 percent of Democratic voters undecided. That is according to a poll this week by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

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