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Colleges, IBHE sound warning at budget hearing

mcguire 031016SPRINGFIELD — During a meeting of a key Senate budget panel Thursday, officials from the Illinois Board of Higher Education as well as several state universities testified to the dire state of higher education in Illinois.

Colleges and universities have not had state funding in place since last summer, and the governor’s proposal for the next budget year would slash funding by 22 percent compared to 2015. State Senator Pat McGuire, a member of the Senate Appropriations II Committee as well as chairman of the Higher Education Committee, echoed the concerns of those who testified.

“Dr. Applegate was right to describe starving Illinois higher education as ‘economic suicide,’ ” McGuire said, referring to IBHE Executive Director Dr. Jim Applegate.

“Our area still is making the painful transition from traditional heavy industry to the 21st century service and tech economy. College needs to be affordable and accessible for all.”

Presidents of Southern Illinois, Eastern Illinois and Western Illinois universities each took turns detailing the difficult cuts they have had to make to faculty and staff without funding in place for the 2016 budget year, cuts that would only run deeper under the governor’s proposal. EIU president David Glassman mentioned that 177 civil service positions will be eliminated Friday.

“Those 177 men and women are clerical, physical plant and maintenance workers,” McGuire said. “Once again, the middle class takes it on the chin.”

McGuire continues to work with members of both parties to solve the higher education funding crisis. The Senate returns to work March 16.