New Efforts To Fund Illinois Higher Education Attracting Bipartisan Support

April 20, 2016
 
Democratic State Sen. Pat McGuire speaks about Republican Representative Mike Fortner's (on right) higher education proposal.

Democratic State Sen. Pat McGuire speaks about Republican Representative Mike Fortner's (on right) higher education proposal. Also pictured from left to right is Republican Reps. Dwight Kay, Norine Hammond and Terri Bryant.

WUIS

Backers of a new proposal to fund higher education are seeking bipartisan support to help Illinois colleges and universities, which have gone without state money since last summer.

There haven't been a lot of spending measures in Illinois garnering bipartisan support from lawmakers. These new attempts have brought together members of both parties. But, the legislation is just a Band-Aid in the larger budget fight.

Public universities have laid off workers, cut programs and threatened to close because they haven't received state support. A proposal by Rep. Mike Fortner, R-West Chicago, would give them a third of their usual state funding and pay for one semester of Monetary Award Program grants for low-income students.

"We want to see all of higher education funded," Fortner said. "But right now, this stop-gap would provide the critical piece to bridge us across."

Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, supports Fortner's measure.

"I'm proud to stand here and support this bicameral, bipartisan effort to keep all nine of Illinois' public universities open," he said.

Another proposal by Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, has attracted a few Republican supporters. It would only provide funds to five schools, which are Western Illinois University, Eastern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, Northeastern University and Chicago State University. These schools are considered most at risk of closing.

Fortner pointed out that Chicago State is set to close its doors May 1 and some other four-year colleges say they're unsure if they can last until fall.

Neither piece of legislation gives money to community colleges.

Story source: Illinois Public Radio