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Higher education urges lawmakers, governor to solve budget impasse

February 12, 2016

Illinois legislators and the governor are being urged to support sustainable funding for higher education as colleges and universities face fiscal concerns heading into a ninth month with no state budget.

A news conference held at Heartland Community College on February 12 outlined the impact the budget impasse is having on local students and higher education institutions. Economic Development Council CEO Kyle Ham, Town of Normal Mayor Chris Koos, as well as students and leaders from Heartland, Illinois Wesleyan University, Lincoln College and Illinois State University discussed several problems from the ongoing lack of funding and uncertainty of when funding will be approved.

Student Government Association President Kyra Ester is studying Business Administration at Heartland. She says not having MAP (Monetary Award Program) funding has put a financial strain on her, stating "I need to finish what I started."

Illinois State University student trustee Connor Joyce added that having MAP funding allows students to focus solely on learning.

Colleges and universities throughout the state have gone without hundreds of millions of dollars in MAP grants and operational funding since July. Aid has not been included in relief packages approved by legislators and the governor. President of HCC Rob Widmer says prospective students, both inside and outside of Illinois, are choosing out-of-state colleges because of the funding uncertainty in Illinois.

"Students who were once considering Illinois' quality institutions for their college of choice are now wondering if Illinois supports its higher education system, and they have reason to wonder," said Widmer. "Rather than questioning whether Illinois is willing to invest in their potential, our students must be able to focus on being successful and continue to move our state forward."

Koos and Ham addressed the budget impasse's economic impact on the Bloomington-Normal community.

"It is incumbent we view education as an investment, not an expense," stated Ham.

Mayor Koos brought up recent reports of Bloomington-Normal being voted as one of the top college towns and mentioned how the area attracts millennials for job opportunities. He also noted that "higher education is an integral part of the community's success story."

The group of speakers presented a clear message: higher education is on life support and more funding delays will cause irreparable damage to Illinois' higher education system.

Written by: Becky Gropp