Rockford's Independent Newspaper

NIU official says Rauner’s higher ed budget falls short

By Guy Stephens 

Matt Streb, chief of staff to Acting NIU President Lisa Freeman, says Gov. Rauner’s proposed allocation for higher education ignores even a minimal 1.9  percent increase requested by the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Instead, it keeps cuts made in last summer’s budget deal.

“The [university] presidents,” he said, “including Acting President Freeman, have argued that the institutions in the state should revert to the Fiscal ‘15 year allocation, which was the last year that we had a full budget before FY ’18.”

Streb says schools are open to the governor’s idea to shift some pension and insurance costs to state universities over the next four years. But right now, he says, there too many questions about how that would be implemented.

Streb said the proposal has some details on how the shift would be handled in the first year, but it’s unclear what happens after that. He said that makes it difficult to plan for the future.

“The most important thing that we need,” he said, “and I think the universities in this state need, is they need stability, and they need predictability in terms of [their] budgets.”

He said it’s important that legislators see that public education is a public good, and fund it accordingly.

Acting President Freeman heads to Springfield Thursday to make the case for increased funding before a state senate appropriations committee. She’s slated to do the same before a house committee later in the spring.

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