State OKs higher ed funding

By Alex Chettiath

DeKalb | Illinois State Comptroller Leslie Munger said she will begin processing payments for students and universities that are suffering the most, after a bill that would provide short term funding for universities, community colleges and Monetary Award Program grants passed both houses.

Senate Bill 2059, which was sent to Rauner on Friday, would provide NIU with $26.5 million for operating expenses, which is less than 30 percent of what was received last year. The Illinois Student Assistance Commission, the body that distributes MAP grants, would receive about $170 million. To fully fund MAP, about $400 million is needed. The bill is expected to be signed by Rauner.

State appropriations, for things such as higher education, have not been made due to the lack of agreement on a finalized budget for Fiscal Year 2016. An agreement has not been reached for close to 10 months. Illinois is the only state without a budget.

“Senate Bill 2059 will use available revenue, not IOUs, to provide a lifeline to our struggling higher education institutions and the MAP program,” said Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley) in a news release. “Unlike past bills, this legislation is fully funded, meaning schools will get the money they need in the next few weeks. I’m incredibly pleased that this deal was reached and our students can make decisions about their educational futures with greater confidence.”

The budget 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 Urbana-Champaign has started planning playoffs, according to the Associated Press.

“While the governor has said he would approve this small portion of funding for higher education, it’s unfortunate he was unwilling to approve any further funding for human services,” said Mike Madigan, Illinois House of Representatives Speaker, in a news release. “If he continues his unwillingness to assist our human service providers, he will be successful in destroying the safety net for those most in need and for critical state services, including services for women who need breast cancer screenings, victims of child abuse and victims of sexual assault.”

The bipartisan agreement came five days after Munger said members of the General Assembly will have their paychecks delayed due to the budget impasse, according to the Associated Press.

The act will be valid for all expenses occurred before Sept. 1, 2016.

“While we are encouraged by the [Illinois General Assembly’s] action today and the bipartisan spirit in which it was taken, we remain disappointed we still don’t have a full-year budget,” said NIU President Doug Baker in a news release. “We believe an FY 2016 budget and an FY 2017 budget solution that ensures funding for colleges and universities is required in the very near future to restore confidence in the state’s commitment to public higher education. Failure to do so will continue to impact student application and enrollment decisions, as well as employment decisions being made by faculty and staff.”