Letter: Higher Education Funding

To the Editor,

On January 28th, the House voted on an amendment to Senate Bill 2043. The appropriations bill, which strangely did not go through the Higher Education Appropriations Committee, appropriates $721 million dollars to the Monetary Assistance Program and the State’s community colleges without a funding source. The bill makes no appropriations to our struggling universities.

Our backlog of unpaid bills sits at over $7 billion dollars. It is an accounting fallacy to say that the passage of this legislation means that money will make it to our students. Every day the Comptroller’s office has to make the difficult choices as to what payments the state can make to services and agencies because we have more money that needs to go out than we take in. The bill’s sponsor admitted during debate that it would be up to the Comptroller’s office to make the decisions regarding priorities because these new appropriations would crowd out important social services, programs, and providers. It is an abdication of our authority as the body responsible for crafting a budget to put the onus on an already overwhelmed office.  

For these reasons, I did not vote for SB 2043. I wholeheartedly believe that we need to fund our higher education institutions and make sure every young Illinoisan can afford to get the education they deserve. I do not believe that this bill is the way to go about it.

Unlike the Democrat’s proposal, House Bill 4539, filed by Rep. Brady, funds not only MAP and community colleges, but also the state’s public universities. Together with HB4521, it also provides a revenue source by granting similar flexibility to the Governor that he was given with the bipartisan FY15 budget fix. It would give the Governor’s office the ability to manage funds and resources to adequately fund programs including higher education.

Our students and higher education institutions are suffering potentially permanent damage. We need to fix this now, but we need to do it in a realistic way that provides tangible funding so we aren’t just making empty promises. We can’t keep our citizens hurting while pretending to help them. 

Margo McDermed
State Representative 37th district