By Leo Welch, Vice President, AAUP Illinois Conference
Prior to the presentation
of Governor Rod Blagojevich’s proposed 2005 fiscal year budget
for higher education, there was little optimism among the representatives
of public colleges and universities. Revenue for the state did not
meet expectations, and the consensus was that higher education funding
was not a priority. There was, however, support in the General Assembly
to prevent further cuts. Fifty four days after the constitutional
deadline of May 31, 2004, the FY 05 budget was finally adopted after
eighteen special sessions were called by Governor Blagojevich. Although
the news out of Springfield was not great, it was certainly better
than earlier budget proposals for Illinois higher education.
Public universities received an increase of $3.2 million or 0.2
percent over fiscal year 2004 appropriations. This amount is considered
“flat funding” by most of the university presidents.
Separate from the budget bill, the Governor also signed a “memorandum
of understanding” with members of the General Assembly that
the Governor would not request any “take backs” from
the universities for fiscal 2005. During fiscal 2004 the universities
were forced to pay $45 million in employee health insurance costs
as “take backs.” These “take backs” together
with the 6.1 percent decrease in funding from the previous fiscal
year caused severe stress on university budgets.
The FY 05 budget for community college grants and operations was
increased by $5.9 million or 2.0 percent from the fiscal year 2004
base. The governor’s FY 05 budget proposal of $284 million
was increased as a result of General Assembly action by $15 million
for the City Colleges of Chicago. The City Colleges have experienced
a significant decline in revenue and are limited in raising local
taxes since Cook County has tax caps. Although the 2 percent increase
looks good, 24 of the 39 community college districts showed reductions
in grants for fiscal year 2005.
Monetary Award Programs
On September 2, 2004, Governor Blagojevich signed Senate Bill 1971
which adds new flexibility to the Monetary Awards Program (MAP).
These grants help pay for tuition and mandatory fees to Illinois
students based on financial need. Previously MAP grants were available
for students who were enrolled full time in fall and springs terms
only and who completed a bachelor’s degree in four years.
These requirements do not reflect the current pattern of student
attendance. The new law, however, allows students eligible for the
needs-based program to receive aid while taking up to 135 credit
hours and makes the grants available for summer term as well. The
summer MAP grants are available to a student if he did not exhaust
his annual MAP eligibility during the fall and spring terms. The
first summer MAP grants will be available in 2006. Students will
continue to be limited to an annual maximum award, currently funded
around $4,400 per student, depending on tuition and fees established
at the college or university attended.
Although the FY 05 budget for higher education in Illinois is not
as bad as originally projected, the future of state funding for
higher education does not look promising. At the April 17, 2004,
Annual Conference of the Illinois AAUP, University of Illinois-Chicago
Chancellor Sylvia Manning cited data from the January 2004 issue
of Postsecondary Education Opportunity prepared by Thomas G. Mortenson
at the Pell Institute. The report illustrates a disturbing trend.
Mortenson charted the changes in state tax fund appropriations per
$1,000 of state personal income between fiscal years 1978 and 2004.
Manning states that the data shows, “In 49 states there is
a decline from one-half of one percent in Kentucky to 67.5 percent
Manning further reports that Mortenson and Associates then calculated
the dates by which, if circumstances don’t change, the state
tax appropriations to higher education will reach zero. In Illinois,
the decline in state tax fund appropriations per $1,000 of state
personal income between fiscal years 1978 and 2004 show Illinois
ranking 18th (from least to greatest decline), at 28.2 peracent.
If this trend continues unchecked, state funding for Illinois higher
education could be zeroed out in 2093.