New plan to fix $1.4 billion money problem for Illinois Colleges

New plan to fix $1.4 billion money problem for Illinois Colleges

According to a recent report by a state commission established in 2021, Illinois’ public universities are underfunded by around $1.4 billion.

Legislators in Illinois have created a new plan for funding public universities and colleges around the state.

The Illinois Commission on Equitable Public University Funding recommendations were made public on Wednesday.

The 34 members of the Commission on Equitable Public University Funding are members of advocacy groups, legislators, and representatives from public institutions.

Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Westchester, one of the commission’s co-chairs, and a few other members presented the report’s conclusions on Wednesday at a press conference at the Capitol.

After years of labor from legislators, university administrators, students, and advocates, the 90-page report examines how Illinois should fund public higher education.

Compared to regional educational institutions with limited resources, the University of Illinois System spends almost twice as much on academic and student support services.

Additionally, it was discovered that state budget cuts had resulted in a $1.4 billion underfunding of public higher education. The plan calls for all public universities to have sufficient funding within ten to fifteen years.

Sen. Kimberly Lightford stated, “When institutions are underfunded, they are unable to provide the necessary resources and support to all students,”

Lightford added, “This perpetrates a cycle of inequalities, where those from affluent backgrounds have access to better education, and subsequently better opportunities, while others are left behind.”

According to Ralph Martire, executive director of the left-leaning Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, the state’s amount spent on operational funding dropped to 35% in 2021, which was 75% in 2002.

Without the funding, the burden falls upon the students, who are then skeptical about pursuing their higher education.

New plan to fix $1.4 billion money problem Illinois Colleges
New plan to fix $1.4 billion money problem for Illinois Colleges

Martire stated, “We are making higher education more unaffordable for everyone in Illinois generally.”

Martire added, “But in particular, for low-income families and families that have been marginalized for decades.”

In an interview, Hope Chicago CEO Janice Jackson stated that besides considering financial needs, the commission also considered the assistance and resources that first-generation, low-income, and minority students might require “not only to get in college, but more importantly to persist and complete college.”

The commission has been formulating a plan to close the funding shortfall.

The commission determined each public university’s budget deficit by setting targets and deducting their established resources.

As president of the education advocacy group Advance Illinois and a commission member, Robin Steans stated, “The single most important driver of student success and of equity in higher education is in our control. We can control what we invest and how we invest it,”

Steans added, “And you may be wondering, why haven’t we done that before? And part of it is we didn’t have a roadmap. We do now.”

The panel examined five other states’ financing models, including Tennessee and California, in addition to Illinois’ K–12 Evidence-Based funding model.

The commission decided to use the K–12 model as the foundation for the higher education formula. Additionally, the fresh approach seeks to close the educational gap faced by low-income and students of color.

The commission proposed three-time frames in the report to help districts get closer to adequate funding.

Governor JB Pritzker’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2025 will add roughly $24.6 million for funding for public universities. The commission’s report will be discussed during next week’s subject matter hearings.

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About the author

Nancy Beverly

Nancy Beverly is a prominent political journalist and editor at World-Wire, known for her sharp analysis and deep understanding of global politics. With a Master's degree in Political Science, she excels in breaking down complex political issues, making them relatable to the public. At World-Wire, Nancy crafts compelling political narratives covering everything from local governance to international relations. Recognized for her expertise, she received the 'Excellence in Political Journalism' award in 2021. Nancy's work not only informs but also enriches her readers' understanding of political dynamics.

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