Eastern to see partial funding

Analicia Haynes, Administration Editor

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill into law Monday that will help institutions of higher education survive through the summer and fund Monetary Award Program grants.

Senate Bill 2059 will give Eastern about $12.5 million or about one-third of what it received in FY15 from the state.

The university will also receive partial funding for MAP grants.

The bill funds all nine Illinois universities, community colleges, MAP grants and the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy by pulling money from the Illinois Education Assistance Fund.

By the end of June, the Education Assistance fund will have a surplus of $6 million dollars.

Charles Wheeler, the director of public affairs reporting at the University of Illinois-Springfield, said this is money that is earmarked for education and cannot be used for anything else.

Wheeler said the reason for the surplus is because the money in the Education Assistance Fund was not appropriated to universities back in July when a budget was supposed to be passed.

Ten months later and still no budget, Wheeler said the money has not gone anywhere and is still sitting in the fund waiting to be spent on higher education.

However, Wheeler said the surplus is not new money and will not provide a new source of revenue; instead, it is money that should have gone to the universities months ago.

Had there not been an appropriation enacted for K-12 education, since the EAF applies toward all levels of education, there would have been a lot more money in the fund, Wheeler said.

“In a sense it’s like an opening, and you realize that the door is not shut and barred and padlocked,” Wheeler said. “The door is open a little bit (and) it is possible to squeeze through. But if there is a chair blocking it on the other side, can we push hard enough to move the chair away so that there’s an opening for us to go through? That’s the part I don’t know about.”

Wheeler said he thinks there is still going to be a push toward funding, just not necessarily for higher education but for social and human services.

Wheeler said lawmakers will look toward yet another stopgap bill that will be a temporary source of funding for human services, but lawmakers still will try to figure out what to do for a full budget year.

“The difficulty is we’re going to have to get more money and we’re going to have to raise taxes, because there’s no way we can make up the difference between what we’re spending,” Wheeler said.

Despite only funding higher education through the summer, President David Glassman said he was pleased Gov. Bruce Rauner signed SB2059 into law.

“We extend our appreciation to both sides of the General Assembly for coming together in a bipartisan manner to provide stopgap funding to the state’s universities and colleges,” Glassman said. “We understand this is a step toward a comprehensive FY16 budget, and anticipate further conciliation in continuing support of an accessible and affordable quality higher education for all citizens of Illinois.”

Glassman offered his gratitude to students, faculty, staff and others who had made their “voices heard as advocates for Eastern Illinois University.”

“You have shared your message in Charleston, in Springfield and elsewhere throughout the state, and it is producing positive outcomes,” Glassman said. “Our legislators have heard your strong message and they are responding.”

Glassman asked the campus to keep the message going as state universities and colleges are an integral investment for the future of the state.


Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]