SA lobbies for college funding, MAP grants


Gov. Bruce Rauner delivers his annual budget address to a joint session of the General Assembly in the House chambers at the Capitol Wednesday in Springfield.

By Northern Star staff

The Student Association sent three representatives to Springfield on Wednesday to lobby for a bill that would permit the state to cut funding of higher education by eight percent.

Senate Bill 2269 makes various appropriations to state universities and community colleges for Fiscal Year 2016 which ends on June 30. NIU would receive $91,092,700 from the Education Assistance Fund and $36,000 from the State College and University Trust Fund compared to the $93 million received for FY 2015.

“At this point, [an] eight percent [funding cut] is a decent number to accept, rather than no funding at all,” said SA Senate Speaker Dillon Domke.

NIU has not received any state appropriations for FY 2016 due to a lack of agreement on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget proposal which would reduce NIU’s funds to $64 million.

The SA representatives in attendance were Domke, Sergeant at Arms Timothy Brandner and Senator Matthew Holt. They conversed with state legislators including Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley) and Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-Aurora) about legislations relating to higher education funding.

Representatives from eleven other higher education institutions participated in the demonstration which was coordinated by Leah Mitchell, a student at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Brandner said.

Representatives from some institutions participated in protests, while others, including NIU, focused more on lobbying efforts.

“Pretty much all of the democratic representatives were on board with us regarding the bills that we wanted to pass and the bills we didn’t want to pass,” Holt said.

Map grants

In addition to the Wednesday demonstration, the SA sent Domke and Senate Deputy Speaker Robert Kreml to Springfield on Tuesday to deliver roughly 20,000 letters and postcards to Rauner’s office. The documents expressed support of SB2043, legislation that would permit the state to fully fund Monetary Award Program grants.

The legislation was sent to Rauner’s office on Tuesday, and his office announced his plan to veto it Wednesday, Domke said.

5,700 NIU students relied on the MAP grants in question to fund their education for the 2015-2016 academic year. NIU credited the MAP grants to students for fall 2015 and spring 2016 amounting to approximately $20 million.

“I’m one of the MAP grant recipients for NIU, and without it I can’t come here,” Kreml said. “It’s a very important piece of funding for our school, so it’s very important that this bill passes.”

NIU representatives worked with the Young Invincibles, an organization dedicated to political activism amongst young adults, to lobby to state legislatures.

SA representatives plan to make another trip to Springfield at the end of March for more lobbying attempts in hopes of reaching more lawmakers. This trip would be open to SA representatives as well as politically involved NIU students, Holt said.

“I feel like things might be loosening up a little bit. There’s more bills on the table now that are providing funding for the universities, so people are becoming a little bit more open to the idea, from both sides of the aisle,” Domke said.