The University of Illinois system appreciates the bipartisan effort in Springfield to provide partial, stop-gap funding for the state’s public universities, who have been forced to manage through the first 10 months of fiscal 2016 with no state appropriation.
The action Friday recognizes the importance of public higher education in Illinois and the critical role that universities throughout the state play in the well-being and prosperity of our citizens.
It is imperative that the public universities in Illinois receive responsible, sustainable levels of financial support from the state. The legislation avoided a catastrophe of no state funding for higher education for fiscal 2016 and it will help public universities continue to operate through the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
However, the measure is insufficient as a total funding commitment for fiscal 2016, providing only $180 million for the U of I – compared with $647 million for fiscal year 2015. The U of I may be forced to make additional drastic reductions in faculty, staff, academic offerings, student programs, economic development initiatives and public service if it does not receive more than the 27.8 percent of last year’s appropriation that is provided in the stop-gap bill.
The stop-gap appropriation also includes greatly reduced funding for the University of Illinois Hospital – about $11 million, or a quarter of fiscal year 2015 levels– which will put medical care at risk for thousands of patients – many from underserved communities.
Funding for Monetary Assistance Program (MAP) grants is also partially restored, but would provide only about $170 million statewide – about 45 percent of the fiscal year 2015 appropriation and short of the needs to serve deserving students across the state.
The U of I is the state’s largest educator, with a statewide presence and 80,000 students, and state funding for our operations accounts for 54 percent of the state’s appropriation for public universities. Ninety-five percent of the appropriation is dedicated to personnel costs. Our fiscal year 2015 appropriation covered the salaries of roughly 6,000 employees and funding at the levels proposed in the stop-gap measure would cover only 2,000.
We strongly urge the governor, legislative leaders and rank-and-file lawmakers of both parties to continue to work on a comprehensive budget for fiscal 2016 that includes levels for higher education closer to the level seen in fiscal 2015, along with adequate funding for fiscal year 2017.
University of Illinois President