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Illinois Higher Education Coalition Created

The initial meeting organizing the Illinois Higher Education Coalition (HELC) took place in Springfield on July 18, 2003. The principal organizers were Donna Manering, Director of Higher Education for the Illinois Education; Sue Kaufman, President of the University Professionals of Illinois which is represented by the Illinois Federation of Teachers; and Leo Welch, Legislative Officer for the Illinois Federation of Teachers' Community College Council.

Manering, Kaufman and Welch were usually in attendance together at the Illinois Board of Higher Education meetings and often discussed common higher education issues. Manering suggested that we should meet formally and discuss common objectives. Out of that concept the coalition was formed. At the initial meeting representatives of the Illinois Community College Trustees were present. So from the beginning the coalition was a labor-management organization.

Since FY2002 Illinois public colleges and universities had experienced significant cuts in appropriations. A common front was deemed necessary to attempt to stop continued cuts for high education by the Illinois General Assembly and to maintain pension and health benefits for participants of the State Universities Retirement System. The HELC also attempted to be the organization that provided exchanges of information relating to higher education institutions and programs and to use that information to promote quick action on issues affecting all state public universities and community colleges.

Currently the following organizations are members of the HELC:

  • American Association of University Professors
  • City Colleges of Chicago
  • Cook County College Teachers Union, Local 1600 (IFT)
  • Education Management Corporation
  • Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges
  • Illinois Board of Higher Education
  • Illinois Community College Board
  • Illinois Community College Faculty Association
  • Illinois Community College Trustees Association
  • Illinois Council of Community College Presidents
  • Illinois Education Association (IEA)
  • Illinois Federation of Teachers Universities Council
  • Illinois Retirement Security Initiative
  • Illinois Student Assistance Commission
  • MJS Associates (higher education lobbyists)
  • State Universities Annuitants Association (SUAA)
  • University Professionals of Illinois 4100 (IFT)
With the retirement of Donna Manering and Sue Kaufman, the leadership was taken up by Linda Brookhart, Executive Director of SUAA. Brookhart sends notices for meetings and provides an agenda for pressing higher education issues, usually focusing on adverse legislation and pension issues.

Meetings are held in Springfield during the Fall veto session and during the regular Spring session of the Illinois General Assembly. Although they are not formal members, usually representatives of public universities and state agencies attend.

With the continued reduction of funding for public higher education in Illinois and continued attacks from a variety of sectors, a coalition of supporters of higher education is more important than ever.

Linda Brookhart, Executive Director SUAA
Leo Welch, AAUP Illinois Legislative Officer