U of I President Praises New State Budget
The University of Illinois is slated to receive an extra $11.6 million under the new state budget approved by lawmakers this week. U of I President Timothy Killeen said the two percent increase in state spending on higher education will bring the university system’s total budget for the next fiscal year to just under $600 million.
Killeen said the increase in funding is less than what university administrators asked for from the state. But he said he's still "delighted" by the budget deal.
“With those dollars we’re going to be recruiting faculty, we’re going to be growing our enrollment -- notably Illinois residents -- and we’re going to be upgrading our facilities, our classrooms, our laboratories," Killeen said in an interview with Illinois Public Media Thursday afternoon.
The new budget deal also includes $25 million in state funding for a merit-based scholarship program. The program will require the state's public universities and colleges to match state funding for scholarships in an effort to boost in-state student attendance. Killeen estimates that the U of I system will receive and match about 40 percent of the scholarship funding made available under the new budget. He said the university system is committed to increasing enrollment of Illinois residents.
Killeen said he's also relieved state lawmakers chose not to shift millions in state pension costs to universities and colleges in the new budget plan.
If lawmakers had chosen to shift pension costs onto state universities, Killeen said that move would have cost the U of I tens of millions of dollars. And while he’s happy lawmakers chose not to go that route, he said he's not opposed to the idea -- so long as that cost shift happens gradually. He said the university system should help the state get its fiscal house in order, and “it’s also important for us to have a very competitive benefits and pension program so we can recruit world class scholars and educators.”
Killeen said he thinks it’s in the U of I’s best interest to control pensions for its employees. But, he said, it has to be a gradual shift -- something that happens over one or two decades, not one or two years.
In general, he said, the newly approved budget provides more stability for the university, and it means lawmakers prioritized investment in higher education.
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