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September 24, 2010


Board of Higher Education to review options for connecting state funding to goals of the Illinois Public Agenda

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois’ public colleges and universities are operating this year at the same level of state funding they had five years ago. During that same period, tuition – which is fixed for four years – and fees for freshmen have escalated by 57.9 percent, while the buying power of a Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant, measured by the percentage of public university freshman tuition and fees covered by a maximum MAP grant, has eroded from 61 percent to 42 percent. A cash flow crisis due to delinquent state payments has put payrolls at risk, resulted in faculty furloughs, and squeezed the academic opportunities for students. And FY2011? So far no state payments a quarter of the way through this fiscal year.

There must be a better way.

And the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) will search for one at its meeting October 5th at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines. The Board, which will meet at 1:00 p.m., will begin preliminary deliberations on options that are being considered by the Higher Education Finance Study Commission, which meets earlier in the day at Oakton. Both meetings will focus on ways state funding can be used to advance the goals of the Illinois Public Agenda for College and Career Success.

“These sessions will be key to the future of higher education funding in Illinois,” said Carrie J. Hightman, IBHE Chairwoman, “The study commission and the Board will go about the task of unpacking months of gathering data, best practices, and alternative financing schemes from experts across the country and then undertake the hard work of making the ideas work for Illinois.”

The Higher Education Finance Study Commission was created by Senate Joint Resolution 88 and is scheduled to complete its work in November. The Illinois Board of Higher Education will then consider the Commission’s recommendations before forwarding a report to the General Assembly in December.

 “The important work being conducted by the Higher Education Finance Study Commission is an excellent example of the Illinois Public Agenda in action,” the Chairwoman stated. “When the Illinois Public Agenda was approved in 2008, I urged all parties concerned with our state’s education policy and economic future to become involved. We did not want this report to sit on a shelf. This Commission has stepped up to the challenge, and I welcome our discussion together.”

The Commission has examined:

  • current funding for Illinois higher education, comparing it to peer states and institutions around the nation;
  • practices implemented in other states that incent certificate and degree completion, including financial incentives for both students and institutions; and
  • tuition and financial aid policies and practices and their roles in improving certificate and degree completion.

The Board’s examination of potential funding options will come amid an unprecedented state fiscal crisis. The October 5th meeting also will feature a report previewing the 2012 fiscal landscape. The report cites a recent briefing paper from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability that revealed FY10 revenues fell $2 billion below fiscal 2009 and the revenue forecast for this fiscal year, while improved, will “remain weak as the economy continues to slowly recover.” Meanwhile, spending demands for Medicaid, other healthcare needs including state employee health insurance, K-12 education, and pension funding will exert ongoing pressures on the budget.

“The time is way overdue for the state to reconsider how it funds its estimable system of colleges and universities,” Chairwoman Hightman said. “We cannot sustain the anemic support for higher education and meet the critical Public Agenda goals of increasing educational attainment, eliminating the achievement gap, improving college affordability, and building a workforce with 21st century skills. We look to the Higher Education Finance Study Commission to offer new directions for preserving and strengthening the treasure we have in Illinois higher education.”


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