University Presidents Plead Case Before Senate Committee

Students walk past the Alma Mater statue on the University of Illinois Urbana campus in April 2014.

In this April 28, 2014 photo, students walk past the Alma Mater statue, a landmark on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana.

(AP Photo/David Mercer)

University presidents are worried about what Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposed cuts in state funds would do their schools’ core mission.

University of Illinois President Bob Easter and told the state Senate appropriations committee Thursday what a 32-percent cut in those dollars would mean to the U of I’s primary role of producing doctors, scientists, and other careers - as well as holding onto those who teach them.

“And a budget that’s consistent with our ability to retain the faculty that will allow us to bring in massive federally funded research," he said.  "It not only generates jobs today, but generates innovation for tomorrow.”

Illinois State University President Larry Dietz told the committee proposed cuts to his campus is equivalent to cutting more than 400 faculty and other workers.  Dietz said he's reluctant to lay off professors.

"We would try to protect that population because the faculty are the ones that teach the courses," he said.  "I fully expect there would be more staff positions than faculty positions."

Rauner’s suggested cuts would mean about $209-million less coming to the U of I.   Easter said the university has raised tuition ‘a bunch’ in recent years, and can’t do that anymore.

Committee member Chapin Rose, a Mahomet Republican, suggested the U of I may have to cut some smaller academic programs - including one on the Urbana campus that has just eight students.  

The university's Board of Trustees is scheduled to review some of these programs at its May meeting.

Rose also suggested that relief from procurement rules could save the U of I $70-million. Dietz mentioned projects delayed so long they had to be rebid.

Rose said Randy Dunn, president of Southern Illinois University, had estimated the cost at $22-to-24 million.  Easter said the true cost is in missing out on bids from vendors unwilling to jump through all the hoops.

Thursday marked likely the last time that Easter, who retires after U of I commencement ceremonies, would address the Senate panel.   President-designate Timothy Killeen takes over May 18.

Story source: WILL