News Local/State

Sen. Brady Has Plan To Privatize State Universities

Bloomington Republican Senator Bill Brady talks with reporters last March 18.

In this March 18, 2014 file photo, Illinois State Sen. Bill Brady speaks with reporters, in Bloomington. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

Wisconsin and Virginia have begun conversations about privatizing flagship public universities.  Now, that discussion could start in Illinois. Bloomington Republican State Senator Bill Brady has introduced a bill to privatize the state's public universities over six years.

“My goal is maybe this would help prioritize higher ed funding – better than what we’ve been able to do in the past decade," he said.  "I think the state will continue to have an obligation to support our institutions of higher education.”

Brady notes that the state also supports needy students at private institutions, and it's possible the state would increase that kind of aid.

“I think this also works to help empower more alumni to get more involved in the university," he said.  "It’s one of the strengths that private universities benefit from.”

He said operating costs on Illinois State University and other campuses might fall if state procurement rules and other mandates were to be lifted.

Education policy experts say such privatization might create a multi-tiered tuition approach with higher sticker prices that get reduced for the neediest students.

Brady says he doubts he'll call his bill this year but wants public debate on the measure.

The College Democrats of Illinois issued a statement, calling it 'appalling' that Brady would propose privatizing the University of Illinois system. 

"Access to public higher education is a key component of ensuring that students are able to afford college," said group president Brexton Isaacs, in a statement.  "We thought the proposed 31-percent cut from Governor Rauner was bad - but it looks like Illinois Republicans are just getting started at dismantiling our universities."