Op-Ed: Rep. Hammond presents Higher Education Funding Update

Following the Governor’s veto of SB 2043, I wanted to provide an update to the public on the recent wrangling over Higher Education funding in Illinois. The bill the Governor recently vetoed, SB 2043, was an Appropriations bill. Yet, it did not go through Appropriations-Higher Education Committee. Instead, Speaker Madigan assigned the bill to the Higher Education Committee. The Committee testimony from witnesses and members alike was very heartfelt.  

Over the past months, there have been many meetings with those in Higher Education at the 4-year Universities and the Community Colleges. Repeatedly, we have heard from the 4-year Universities that their priority is receiving their Operating Funds. SB 2043 does not include any Operating Funds for State Universities. It does fund Operating Funds to City Colleges of Chicago, Community Colleges and MAP grants. In Illinois, MAP grants are provided to students at the 4-year institutions, Community Colleges, Private Colleges, and For-Profit Colleges- a total of $721.5 million. The ONLY funds the public universities would receive would be MAP dollars. I cannot justify giving monies to the Private and For-Profit colleges when we are not funding our Universities like Western Illinois University.  

When SB 2043 was up for consideration, I reached out to University and Community College Presidents to discuss the situation. They fully understood what was going on and agreed they needed to be assured that funds would actually come as a result of any action. SB 2043 would not have given them that assurance. Additionally, there was no revenue stream for the bill.   

I am a co-sponsor of HB 4539 that funds ALL of Higher Education, albeit with a 20% cut from FY15 to 4-year institutions, 10% cut from FY15 to Community Colleges, and provides $373 Million in MAP funding. There is a companion bill, HB 4921, Unbalanced Budget Response Act that identifies the revenue stream and would provide the Governor with the ability to direct fund transfers, WITH EXCEPTION including the Road Fund dollars, debt service payments, pension payments, etc. This flexibility was given to Gov. Quinn when he took over from Gov. Blagojevich and when we negotiated the FY2015 deficit fix.  

Now that SB 2043 has been vetoed, I believe that there could be a better path forward toward funding Higher Education, even in the current budget impasse. I strongly urge my colleagues to deeply consider HB 4539 and HB 4921.  

Rep. Norine Hammond State Representative, 93rd District