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Remarks at the Illinois Coalition to Invest in Higher Education Rally

By Linda Brookhart, Executive Director, SUAA

The State Universities Annuitants Association represents all participants and recipients in the State Universities Retirement System. As students, this might not be important to you. As a legislator, this might not be important to you. But to the campuses, these people are the glue that holds higher education together. These are the very people who keep our higher education structure intact. The very people who hold their loyalties to these institutions. The very people who work exceptionally hard to make sure students get a fair run at life’s hurdles.

We continue to listen to the many voices who think further cutting of funding to higher education makes sense because of the alleged over-spending, whether it be curricula, services, maintenance or salaries. We believe that all campuses have worked hard to take the excess spending out of their budgets. So much so that they are now running on fumes – the perks have gone away – those perks have been forced out.

Our members are on the front lines of cutbacks, furloughs, and job losses. Our members are the ones who are picking up the pieces for their campuses as their associates, their friends, their colleagues are forced out. They do this by adding one more task to their already overloaded schedules. They do this out of loyalty for their campuses and loyalty to their profession. It is important to them that their campus be viewed as having enough personnel to keep operations going, faculty to teach, and the administration to pull it all together. They do this for the students.

The loss of personnel, regardless of their positions, goes beyond the borders of our campuses. The cutbacks and unemployment dig into the mainstay of our communities. Our members contribute to their communities through buying power – think real estate, shopping, restaurants, recreation and hobbies. Through volunteerism – social services, churches, community projects and their campuses. They help to raise money; and they contribute heavily.

There are almost 180,000 active members and retirees in the State Universities Retirement System who have the ability to put over $1.45 Billion back into the economy of their communities and the State of Illinois every year. In addition, seventy eight percent of the annuitants continue to live in Illinois.

The SURS members – participants and recipients alike – are the very people who brought their talents to lead our students to their dream jobs; the very people who without them, there would be no success stories to share. Higher Education Creates Jobs! Quit telling them to go away!