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Illinois university leaders decry Rauner’s state funding cut proposal

Leaders of two state universities said Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed higher-education budget cut would slash their state funding by nearly one-third and do great harm to students and to Illinois residents.

Robert Easter, president of the University of Illinois, the state’s biggest public university, said the school would suffer a 31.5 percent, or $209 million, reduction in its state funding support under Rauner’s plan.

“A budget cut of that magnitude would substantially harm our students and the people of Illinois by most severely impacting the University’s core education and research missions,” Easter said in a statement.

He said officials with the university, whose three campuses enroll 78,000 students, will lobby legislators to uphold “the twin aspects of prudent, responsible stewardship of public resources as well as the excellence and critical importance of our world-class University’s broad mission.”

Doug Baker, president of Northern Illinois University.  |  Provided

Doug Baker, president of Northern Illinois University. | Provided

Doug Baker, president of Northern Illinois University, said the DeKalb school would endure a 31.5 percent cut in its state appropriations. That would mean the state’s contribution to NIU’s budget would drop to $63.8 million from the current $93.1 million. Already, the university receives less than 25 percent of its $426 million budget from state funds.

Baker said the university, which enrolls 20,600, had anticipated a big funding cut and has started to prioritize its program spending, but will continue to lobby the Legislature about the value of higher education.

“We will look for the best thinking across our university and in partnership with other schools to discover creative ways of dealing with this challenge,” Baker said.

James Applegate, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, said such budget cuts would thwart the people who most need a college degree from earning one.

“Higher education has already suffered from a $1 billion budget reduction over the last decade,” Applegate said in a statement.

“More cuts threaten to close college opportunity for the Illinoisans who need it most,” he added.

“Educating Illinois’ workforce is our way out of this budget crisis,” Applegate said. “If Illinois had reached its goal of 60 percent of its workforce (holding) a college degree, it would mean more than a $900 million annual increase in tax revenues.”