Following her recent appointment to the House Appropriations-Higher Education Committee, state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, met with the presidents of area community colleges and universities to discuss the need to adequately fund institutions of higher education.
“I was fortunate to attend an Illinois public university and I understand how valuable they are to Illinois,” Kifowit said. “Throughout the ongoing budget crisis, higher education has seen their funding slashed. Unlike other portions of the budget, funding for our public colleges and universities has not been included in the court rulings, and our students have suffered as a result.”
Kifowit met with state Sen. LindaHolmes, D-Aurora; Waubonsee Community College President Dr. Christine Sobek; Aurora University Executive Vice President Ted Parge; North Central College President Troy Hammond; College of DuPage Director of Government Relations Mary Ann Millush; College of DuPage Vice President Student Affairs Earl Dowling; Northern Illinois University Dr. Douglas Baker; Northern Illinois University Associate Vice President; State Government Relations Mike Mann; and Benedictine University President Michael Brophy in Aurora to discuss major issues facing local colleges and universities as a result of the budget impasse.
During the budget impasse triggered by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s 2015 veto, public universities have been cut by nearly 60 percent. Community colleges have also been affected greatly by the ongoing budget stalemate, seeing their state dollars cut by 73 percent, during the two years Illinois has been without a budget.
Along with drastic cuts in funding to community colleges and universities, programs like the Monetary Award Program (MAP), have been zeroed out. While over 200,000 students rely on MAP grants to pay for their education, the governor’s budget proposal does not allocate dollars to cover the previous two years of MAP grant recipients.
Some colleges were able to advance the money for these students and now face the prospect of never being repaid by the state. Throughout the ongoing budget crisis, Kifowit has voted on five separate occasions to fund both the MAP grant program and the Illinois Veteran Grant Program.
Rauner’s budget also has no funding for many other higher education programs including, the Illinois Veterans Grant, Competitive Nursing School Grants, and Nurse Educator Fellowships. Kifowit has voted numerous times to fund these and other important higher education programs for Illinois students. Rauner has been opposed to these programs.
“I am shocked the governor proposed zero funding for our student veterans who have given so much for our country,” Kifowit said. “In my work on the Veterans Suicide Taskforce, educational opportunities were a key factor to combat veteran suicide; to eliminate funding for the Illinois Veterans Grant, a valuable program, in addition to the dramatic reductions in state funding for higher education could have devastating effects on a struggling veteran.”
“I am committed to working with the higher education community as an active member of the Higher Education Appropriation committee to ensure proper funding for our colleges and universities,” Kifowit said. “I hope the governor would reconsider the devastating reductions he is proposing in his current budget proposal.”