After years of cuts and chronic underfunding, state higher education officials voted yesterday to make a modest request for next year’s budget.
Meeting in Springfield, the Illinois Board of Higher Education had a lengthy debate: Do we ask for what we really need? Or do we ask for what we think we can get?
They decided, by a vote of 9 to 6, to go with the second option, submitting a request based on the current appropriation plus about 2 percent.
Al Bowman, executive director of the agency, acknowledged that dissenting members favored a request pegged to the state's more generous 2015 appropriation.
"But given the realities that the state is facing, we didn't feel comfortable going back to the 2015 budget,” he said, “even though there's real demonstrated need that would justify that larger amount."
The request includes an increase in payments toward pension liabilities, and more funding for students who are military veterans. The board also requested a boost to the Monetary Award Program, known as MAP grants, to help low-income students pay for school, plus $20 million to address a small fraction of the most urgent infrastructure repairs. Most campuses deferred maintenance during the two-year state budget impasse.