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Higher Education
Legislative Coalition Report

Former teacher, legislator, congressman, Illinois gubernatorial candidate, and current President of Southern Illinois University, Glenn Poshard met with the coalition on January 9, 2007. He began by giving a history lesson. At the beginning of this nation, education was provided only to those of wealth at Christian based universities located in the Eastern United States. Education expanded beyond the wealthy via the Morrow Land Grant Act signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862. George Morrow created the Land Grant University System that opened up education for anyone wanting a higher quality of life. Since then government has understood the importance of education to self, society, the nation and the world. Poshard states this is no longer true with our state and federal government today. He cited the loss of $13 billion in federal scholarship funds last year and state cuts to Illinois institutions of higher education. Even more startling was his statement that those in higher education do not want to engage politically, resulting in a misunderstanding among political leaders that may not know the value education plays in a modern society. When coupled with an unengaged constituency (parents, faculty, students, trustees, retirees, alumni, business community) there is serious trouble for public higher education.

Judy Irwin, Executive Director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, also spoke to the twenty two members of the coalition. She reiterated the message of Poshard, that unless that higher education constituencies are willing to put forward a much greater effort in the legislative arena, the general assembly will continue to keep higher education funding in a low priority status. She gave a direct charge to the coalition to use the strength of coalition members present at the table to increase our collective efforts.

One of the topics discussed in response to Poshard and Irwin’s comments was how to engage the college and university presidents in the efforts of the coalition. In general they have not expressed any interest in personally being present at coalition meetings, but some have authorized their lobbyist to attend. Many on the coalition feel that their presence would be helpful and would strengthen positions taken by the coalition.
One of the major items of business was to move the Lobby Day from April 18 to April 25. So mark your calendars and plan on meeting in Springfield on April 25. Details on the Lobby Day will follow. Contact me at leo.welch@swic.edu.

Leo Welch
Legislative Officer
President, AAUP Illinois Conference