Presidents of three public universities appeared before lawmakers to make their case on why their schools shouldn’t have to endure a 31% state funding cut, as Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has proposed.
Eastern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University and Western Illinois University each sent a team to a House appropriations committee to argue against the proposed reduction.
Eastern’s president, Bill Perry, said he could trim his school’s budget by 10%. Southern’s president, Randy Dunn, offered 5%. Western’s president, Jack Thomas, said his school had cut to the bone and couldn’t trim any more.
Committee chair Kenneth Dunkin (D-Chicago) challenged the lawmakers to make their decisions based on information, rather than along party lines.
“I think it will be very interesting to see how we end up voting on a budget this year, compared to over the last three years, where we had partisan votes here on this committee. These universities are not a Republican or Democratic institutions; these are our institutions,” Dunkin said.
SIU President Randy Dunn warned lawmakers that the deep cuts Rauner wants would torpedo the governor's own goal of attracting new businesses to the state.
“We spend a great deal of time talking to very wealthy people, people who own businesses, run corporations, lead very successful careers guiding this state in its business economy," Dunn said. "I have yet to talk to one of those individuals who is supportive of pulling back on the higher education system in this state.”
Dunn told the committee that if students were expected to cover the proposed cuts in state revenue, tuition would have to double.