A $600 million measure to fund the state's public higher education institutions cleared the state legislature Friday. The bill now heads to Gov. Bruce Rauner, who is expected to sign the legislation.
The short-term funding bill is set to provide $356 million for public universities and $74 million for community colleges, including $20 million that is allocated for Chicago State University, which has been teetering on the brink of closure. In addition, nearly $170 million is slated to go toward the state's Monetary Award Program, which provides needs-based grants for tuition assistance to low-income college students.
The bipartisan measure passed unanimously in the Senate and by a 106-2 vote in the House, with the "no" votes coming from Reps. Scott Drury (D-Highwood) and Jack Franks (D-Marengo).
"By passing this bipartisan agreement, 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," reads a statement from Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly. "We are hopeful the General Assembly will build on this bipartisan momentum in the weeks ahead as we negotiate a balanced budget with reform for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017."
For his part, House Speaker Michael Madigan issued the following statement after the higher education funding bill's passage:
Governor Rauner has said that crisis creates opportunity and leverage, and that government may have to be shut down for a while. Now, he has forced a situation where some universities are on the verge of closing. The plan the House passed delivers emergency relief for the state's colleges, universities and students as we continue pushing for a more comprehensive budget and full fiscal year funding.
While the governor has said he would approve this small portion of funding for higher education, it's unfortunate he was unwilling to approve any further funding for human services. If he 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, including services for women who need breast cancer screenings, victims of child abuse and victims of sexual assault.
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. Time will tell if Governor Rauner has further intentions of destroying our state institutions and human service providers, or if he will begin working with us to craft a full-year budget that is not contingent on passage of his demands that will destroy the middle class.
Higher education institutions and the MAP program have gone unfunded throughout the budget impasse, which is now in its tenth month. Rauner and Democratic lawmakers have been at odds over a state budget that should have taken effect July 1.
In responding to the stopgap funding measure, Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery called for an overall budget solution that fully funds education and social services:
While this bill is not a long-term budget solution, it is a critical stopgap measure that will prevent immediate college closures, help our students plan for their future, and begin to address the crisis Governor Rauner created. For almost a year, the Governor has made unreasonable political demands a condition of passing a state budget and vetoed funding for higher education and students in need. We urge Governor Rauner to sign the bill into law and then refocus his priorities. It's time to fully fund education. It's time to fully fund social services. And it's time to pass a full and sufficient budget for the current and upcoming fiscal years.