Local members of the Illinois Coalition to Invest in Higher Education presented what’s at stake in the ongoing state budget stalemate during a press conference Tuesday afternoon before nearly 200 in Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Morris University Center.
Senior Dillon Santoni, SIUE’s student trustee, served as the master of ceremonies and urged state legislators to resolve the budget impasse.
“Every day, our campus and many others around the state are making very difficult decisions that affect students and employees, and will have long-lasting ramifications,” said SIU System President Randy Dunn, who attended a similar session earlier in the day on the Carbondale campus. “We hope legislators and the governor will hear our pleas for a funding solution and act quickly as we work around Illinois to show how important our higher education institutions are to our communities, our economy and our state.”
The coalition kicked off its push in January with a statehouse news conference. The SIUE event was one of several around the state designed to raise awareness of the funding crisis and build pressure on policymakers for a solution.
Coalition members included representatives from SIUE, Greenville College, Lewis and Clark Community College and Southwestern Illinois College. SIUE and Greenville College students addressed their challenges in regard to the Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants and its impact on their academic careers.
The state is being irresponsible,” said Madeline McCune, SIUE student body president, who noted the budget issue’s impact on campus. “Our science building, which has still not been completed, is now impacting our students, as well as our theater and performance students. Our theater hall is now turned into a lecture hall for science students because they simply have no space.
“It also threatens our services. We possibly have the chance of losing services that aid in our student learning experience such as our writing center and other tutoring resources. These services are crucial. As a student who started in academic development in math, I know without those resources I wouldn’t be where I am today. They gave me the tools I needed to succeed.”
McCune told of the frustration on campuses across the state. “Students at some public universities are now at the brink of trying to transfer out or not even being able to complete some of their studies,” she said. “Why should students have to suffer for the inability of our state government to do their job? How bad does our government want things to get before they deem that students have suffered enough?”
Illinois state representative Jay Hoffman (113th district) and state senator James Clayborne (57th district) were also in attendance to show their support.
The Coalition is a collection of business, labor, and organizations representing public and private colleges and universities coming together to urge immediate action. Illinois universities and colleges have gone without hundreds of millions of dollars in MAP grants and operational funding since July, and aid has not been included in relief packages approved by legislators and the governor since the summer, while they have not reached agreement on a full-year budget.
Photo: SIUE student government president Madeline McCune.