Budget cuts spare education

Higher education can breath a collective sigh of relief, but it better not get too cozy.

Gov. Jim Edgar delivered his woeful budget tale yesterday. The bleak budget list revealed deep cuts for several state agencies. In a gesture of saving grace, higher education was spared the rod, but the child was certainly not spoiled by any means.

Higher education will receive the same amount of state money as last year, but no increase is on the horizon for next year.

If the cuts had to be made, at least Edgar showed long-term vision and did not slash the budget of the area which provides for the future of the state. NIU and the other state universities have already been sacrificing academic quality for far too long to slice themselves any further.

Despite talk to the contrary, Edgar did not announce a request for a tuition increase. Putting the cost on the backs of students is certainly not the answer in this year or any year. Let’s hope the Board of Regents realizes the same message.

However, NIU is not out of the woods yet. The state legislature will get its crack at coming up with a budget. With many state agencies which affect the poor getting hit this time, expect lawmakers to look for other areas to take funds away from to save their own necks. Remember, higher education escaped relatively unscathed during last summer’s bloodbath which led to a budget compromise. In an election year, the competition for state dollars will be even more intense. After all, if every state agency was a Golden Cow, then the budget would never be cut.