Cost-Shift Measure for Higher Ed Clears Illinois House

May 30, 2013

Colleges and universities would assume the cost of their employees' pensions under a proposal approved by the Illinois House Thursday.

The plan has the backing of state universities and community colleges, which say they can afford the gradual phase-in.  They also negotiated for looser purchasing rules they say will let them operate more efficiently.

Republicans charge that the shift will lead community colleges to increase property taxes and universities to raise tuition.

Rep. Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) said Illinois families are having a harder and harder time affording college.

"It's cheaper to send your child to the Indiana state universities than it is to send them to Illinois State," he said.  "It's cheaper to send your child to the University of Missouri, than it is to the University of Illinois."

But Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) who sponsored the cost-shift bill, said the universities claim they can absorb the costs without tuition hikes.

"That testimony actually came from the people who set the tuitions, not the people who don't set tuitions," she said.

Nick Yelverton with the Illinois Federation of Teachers, said he's "puzzled" by the universities' support  - especially following years of arguing for more state funding.

"This will clearly impact students' tuition, and further limit the availability to lower-class individuals to have access to higher education," he said.

There was a similar plan to shift pension costs from the state to suburban and Downstate school districts -- but stronger political opposition has shelved that idea for now.

Story source: Illinois Public Radio