Short-term funding bill could keep higher ed afloat


Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley) talks about the likelihood of there being no Illinois budget before July 1, 2015, at the Board of Trustees meeting on June 18, 2015.

By Alexander Chettiath

Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley) said several bills are being negotiated for a stop-gap funding measure for higher education and the Monetary Award Program.

Funding for higher education and MAP has not been appropriated for Fiscal Year 2016 due to the nearly ten-month budget impasse. The impasse is due to a lack of agreement between legislators and Gov. Bruce Rauner on a finalized budget. Without a finalized budget, appropriations cannot be given out.

The impasse has resulted in job cuts in schools such as Eastern Illinois University and Western Illinois University. Chicago State University is due to run out of money by the end of the month. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has started planning playoffs, according to the Associated Press.

The stop-gap funding measures would provide short-term funds for colleges and universities so they can stay open and retain faculty.

“The plan is for legislation that will combine several bills to provide real short-term funding for all universities, community colleges and [MAP] grants,” Pritchard said.

A bill proposed by Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) would give NIU about $28.5 million compared to the $93 million NIU received for Fiscal Year 2015. It would also fund about 50 percent of MAP.

In a post on his website, Fortner, who is also a physics professor at NIU, said there is no identified revenue to fully fund state universities and the Illinois Math and Science Academy, and by the end of FY 2016 there will only be $600 million available in funding.

Fortner’s bill is meant to provide one semester of MAP grants and four months of funding for universities and the Illinois Math and Science Academy, which comes to about $550 million, Fortner said on his website.

“[Fortner] has proposed a method that I fully support to use over $500 million in Education Assistance Funds to make real dollars available for stop-gap finding,” Pritchard said in a statement. “Previous legislation was not tied to real dollars and was just IOU’s. Let me assure you that I am continuing to work for a full budget for higher education and human services not being funded.”

Pritchard said he is confident Rauner will sign a stop-gap bill but will have to consult with Democrats on a bill to ensure that it will make it through both houses.