With Budget Address Looming, Higher Ed Makes Funding Plea

Feb 15, 2016

Students, teachers and administrators joined U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, right, to make a push for funding higher education in Illinois.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner is scheduled to deliver his budget message to the Illinois General Assembly this Wednesday. In advance of that, interest groups are lining up to plead their case for state funding. On Monday, representatives of the state’s colleges and universities made one such pitch.

Higher education is going on eight months without state funding. Some schools are threatening layoffs and canceled classes; others have gotten by with cost-cutting. But everywhere students are feeling the pinch.

Illinois has not funded the state grants that help people from low-income families go to college.

Jamie Anderson was a foster child in a family of eight. Now she's studying social work at the University of Illinois Springfield.

“I would not be the student I am today if I did not receive the MAP grant funding," Anderson said. “We’re playing with people’s dreams here now. Eight months into this, people are having to worry about if they can come back to school next semester, if they can be the lawyer that they sought out to be, if they can be the social worker that they sought out to be."

Lynn Fisher, president of the faculty union at UIS, says students at some schools will be on the hook for the unfunded grants.

"Imagine what it means to a student to have promised financial assistance turned into debt at the end of a college year," Fisher says.

Democrats have passed legislation that would fund the grant program. But Rauner says without knowing where the money would come from, he’ll veto it.