Rauner expected to approve emergency higher education funding

Robin Opsahl, City Editor

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Gov. Bruce Rauner is expected to sign a Senate bill passed by Illinois lawmakers Friday that would allocate $600 million in short-term funding to public state universities and Monetary Award Program grant recipients.

The bill — a response to challenges faced by public higher education institutions in the state from the lack of a state budget — passed unanimously in the Illinois Senate after passing 106-2 in the House. Illinois is currently in its 10th month without a budget.

The Senate bill came only days before Chicago State University — a public university serving largely low-income, minority and non-traditional students — planned to shut down. If Rauner were to sign the bill, public four-year universities would receive $356 million and state community colleges would receive $74 million, with CSU receiving $20 million.

A statement issued by Rauner’s press secretary praised the “bipartisan momentum” and hoped it would lead to budget negotiations.

“Lawmakers in both chambers put aside political differences to provide emergency assistance for higher education, ensuring universities and community colleges remain open and low-income students can pay for school,” press secretary Catherine Kelly said in a statement.

The effort almost failed Thursday night after debate over funding social services being added to the bill. However, this additional funding was cut before the bill passed Friday morning.

Democrats, including Speaker of the House Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), criticized the lack of funding for non-education public services. Madigan’s office could not be reached for comment.

“If (Gov. Rauner) continues his unwillingness to assist our human service providers, he will be successful in destroying the safety net for those most in need and for critical state services,” Madigan said in a statement. “I am hopeful the governor sees the funding in this higher education package not as a solution, but as emergency assistance to those most in need.”

In addition to funding specific universities and community colleges, the bill also outlined giving more than $169 million to fund MAP grants, $6 million for public high school Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and $11 million to the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System.

Layoffs and cuts that had already been implemented will not be reversed with the emergency funding at many public universities, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Officials from Chicago State University and Northern Illinois University did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Email: robinopsahl2018@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @robinlopsahl