Faculty, officials react to Edgar’s education budget

By Jami Peterson

Some faculty members and university officials said Gov. Jim Edgar’s promise to keep funds flowing through higher education is not all it’s cracked up to be by the administration.

In Edgar’s Tuesday budget address, he recommended keeping next year’s higher education budget the same. About $1.6 billion went to higher education this year, with NIU’s share at $122 million. Edgar also did not recommend providing funds to give faculty members salary increases next year.

Mitch Vogel, president of University Professionals of Illinois (UPI), said Edgar based the level of the higher education budget on funds left over from a 3 percent midyear cut in January, which knocked the budget down from $1.9 to $1.6 billion.

Therefore, he said, “(Edgar) is cutting higher education. He made the 3 percent cut a real cut.

I think it’s disgraceful that he says he’s an education governor when the one element hit the hardest is education,” he said.

Vogel said the lack of funds for higher education will snatch money from students’ pockets when tuition increases. “These are cuts that are going to come out of the hides of you, as students,” he said.

Because Edgar did not provide money for faculty raises, Vogel said the governor is “discriminating against the university.”

Administrators should not be reacting positively to the budget address, he said. “How (NIU President John La Tourette) can talk about sparing higher education is perplexing to me,” he said. “I don’t know where they’re (administrators) coming from. Maybe they don’t care what faculty gets.”

University Council President J. Carroll Moody said he also is upset about the governor’s decision to level off funds. “This carries over budget problems into next year,” he said. “It makes it (the budget cut) permanent until better days come.”

Moody also said he is concerned about the lack of funds for salary increases. Over the last two years, faculty have received only a 2 percent salary increase, he said.

He said positive reactions from the Board of Regents, located in Springfield, should not lighten the budget load. “I don’t think we’ve had very good representation in Springfield,” he said. “Sometimes too good a face is put on what the state is doing.”

Law Professor Rudolphe De Seife also said he disagrees with Edgar’s decisions. “These cuts are going to affect the very core of the university,” he said.

He said the law school already is operating on a lean budget, and Edgar’s recommendations add to the problems. “We have no fat,” he said. “If we have to cut 5 percent, we’re not cutting fat, we’re cutting muscles, and if we have to cut more than 5 percent, we’ll be cutting the bone.”

The administration’s positive reactions do not speak for the faculty, De Seife said.

But student Regent James Mertes said he is pleased Edgar saw higher education as a beneficial part of the state.

However, he said, “I still think the legislature could do more for higher education.” With inflation and the cost of living, the funds for higher education should increase, he said.

Student Association President Preston Came said he was not surprised by Edgar’s address. “I’m pleased to see there were no further cuts in higher education.”