Student Association to rally during Rauner visit


Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to members of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency on Sept. 11 in Springfield. Dillon Domke, Student Association speaker, is calling for students to attend a rally during Rauner’s visit to NIU on Oct. 29.

By Margaret Maka and Keith Hernandez

With the state budget still at an impasse, Dillon Domke, Student Association Senate speaker, called for students to attend a rally for Gov. Bruce Rauner’s arrival in DeKalb during a University Council meeting Wednesday.

The Governor, who has been locked in a stalemate with the General Assembly over an appropriate state budget for more than three months, will visit NIU for the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation’s Annual Dinner and State of the County event on Oct. 29. The impasse may jeopardize the future of Monetary Assistance Program grant funding, the reconstruction of an academic hall and state health insurance claims of NIU employees.

Rauner proposed a $29.3 million cut to NIU’s state allocation, a cut the university has prepared for with an interim budget of $389 million — down 9 percent from FY 2015’s $426.5 million budget.

The SA Senate passed a resolution Sunday to “urge the government of the State of Illinois to end the budget impasse while holding the line on the higher education budget from FY15 and to be sure to completely fund the MAP Grant Program.”

“This is one of the biggest issues I think we’ve faced in the Student Association since our inception in 1968,” Domke said.

MAP funding

The state Senate passed a bill on Aug. 19 that would provide $373 million for MAP grant recipients. More than 5,000 NIU students who qualify for MAP grants have been credited by the university in anticipation of funding before the spring semester.

The bill awaits House approval, but the Governor has vowed to veto it because he said he does not want a piecemeal budget.

“So just imagine a quarter of the student population here just disappearing because they could potentially not afford to be here,” Domke said at the University Council meeting Wednesday. “[Oct. 4], we had our first student senate meeting, and during my report I asked everyone in the room if they’d share whether or not they had MAP grant funding. About a quarter of the room raised their hand. And then I asked, ‘Well who knows someone who receives the MAP grant?’ And almost every single hand in the room went up.”

Stevens Building reconstruction

As it is a state-funded project, Stevens Building reconstruction has been stalled since July 1 and remains 40 percent complete. The Stevens Building was the home of anthropology and theatre and dance students, who have been relocated until the building is finished.

Reconstruction has a few months to remain dormant before the building’s completion date is pushed back, and maintenance for the building may cost the university up to $50,000, said Alan Phillips, vice president of Administration and Finance, according to a Sept. 14 Northern Star article.

State health insurance

The Illinois Department of Central Management Services stopped paying health insurance claims for State Employees Group Insurance Program members under self-insured plans on Sept. 9.

Meredith Krantz, Central Management Services Spokesperson, said the department is no longer able to afford to pay for medical claims made by the more than 150,000 self-insured members because of the lack of state funding, according to a Sept. 17 Northern Star article. Medical providers and employers will have to foot the bill until a state budget is determined, Krantz said.

NIU President Doug Baker said in an email to employees the university would look into ways to provide payment for employees who will have to pay for their health care up front.