Smile Politely

Potential monetary fallout for U of I

If someone came up to the street and asked you if you valued your education, or your child’s education, what would your answer be?

Without a moment’s hesitation you would (I hope) say yes, because people have fought and died to receive a quality education, and to say no is to throw that struggle and sacrifice in their faces, particularly those who aren’t able to attend school, no matter how much they’d like too.

Which is why I was so surprised when I learned what Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget plan entailed. For those who haven’t seen a rundown of the cuts, here they are:

I want to focus on one specific program that as a first year college student is very important to me: higher education. In an attempt to close the $6 billion dollar deficient, one aspect of Rauners’ plan proposes cutting 31.5% of state funding to all Illinois Universities, effectively removing nearly $209 million.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is the best public university held in the state; it attracts people from all over the world because of its academic prestige.  In addition, earlier this year the University announced that it would freeze its tuition for the following year to keep attracting in-state students from going outside of Illinois to cheaper Universities. Should Rauners’ budget cuts be passed, the University would have to find ways to offset the cuts in funding, most logically raising tuition prices, not to mention the potential fallout with teachers, research programs, and academic departments. 

I spoke with Andrew Bloomberg, a current U of I undergraduate student on his opinion of the proposed budget cuts, and his reaction was similar to what I have encountered of many current students. “When Rauner was running for Governor, one of the main things he ran on was education, so I don’t understand why that’s one of the first things he would cut. Also U of I is a main university for out of state and international students, so it doesn’t make any sense to cut funding when the university is such a draw.”

What is interesting, however, is that while planning to cut $400 million to higher education, Rauner wants to increase funding to K-12 grades by $300 million. His commitment to Elementary, Middle, and High School education is wonderful, all forms and levels of education are important and need to be appropriately supported. What I don’t understand though is his seemingly apparent lack of commitment to higher education. 

What is the point of having stronger K-12 grades if when students graduate they don’t have an affordable, quality University to go to in Illinois, furthering the problem of losing possible in-state students?

Carolyn Shalk, a current High School Senior who has been accepted into U of I and is in the midst of making her decision about where to attend college, told me about how if the University does lose funding of that size, it would impact her decision about where she would want to go to school. “If the tuition was raised and scholarships were cut, then it would definitely make me think more about attending schools in other states that I’ve been accepted to. Also if my program of study received less support than that would make me look harder at privately funded schools.” 

I am not naïve; I am aware that Illinois is in the midst of major debt and that a fierce, pro-active plan must be put in place to start addressing that debt. At the same time, I love being in college. I love knowing that I attend a University that is nationally recognized and will provide me the knowledge and skills I need to support myself once I leave college. That is what makes these proposed funding cuts so troubling, because despite U of I prestige and renowned reputation, that isn’t going to be what pays the bills.

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