"I am sharing with the University community a letter signed by all Illinois public university presidents regarding Governor Rod Blagojevich's proposed FY2007 budget for higher education and other higher education initiatives. The governor will present his budget address on February 15."
The Honorable Rod Blagojevich
State of Illinois
Statehouse Room 207
Springfield , IL 62706
Dear Governor Blagojevich:
We, the public university presidents, discussed your proposed FY07 budget for higher education and respectfully submit our thoughts to you herein. We appreciate your continued commitment to open dialogue and to the students and citizens who we all serve. We are pleased to express our support for your proposed budget for higher education.
Following as it does several years of state revenue shortfall and corresponding austerity measures, your budget proposal for higher education sends a strong message about economic recovery and underscores your historic commitment to access and opportunity. We support the plan you have shared with us and applaud its provision of additional base funding. Students, faculty and staff who have seen the effects of recent budget cuts will certainly be grateful to learn of the high priority you have placed on getting Illinois higher education "back on track."
We also support your proposal of a College Tuition Tax Credit that returns to our students and their families a portion of their own investment in higher education. It is particularly pleasing to know that this new benefit would be available to students in community colleges, public universities and private institutions and in every stage of life. Similarly, we are very happy to see in your budget proposal a plan to boost the Monetary Award Program (MAP) budget by nearly $8 million. Not only will this relieve some of the burden on low- and middle-income families, but it will also provide a much-needed balance to reductions in college aid on the federal level.
Acknowledging that loans provide our students with the single largest source of funding for their education, we appreciate the attention you and your staff have given to making college loans as affordable as possible. Your plan to sell the state's student loan assets and loan transaction services deserves serious consideration. We have watched with interest as this practice has been adopted in states around the country and have seen many enjoy significant financial benefits which are, in turn, passed on to higher education. In that spirit, we support your continued investigation of this approach and applaud you and your staff for the vision to pursue new sources of funding and savings. We encourage Illinois to move forward with this initiative.
At the same time, we urge you to remain vigilant and to protect and enhance those important student services provided by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC). Specifically, knowing that you are as sympathetic to these concerns as we are, we ask that the following be conditions of the sale of loan assets and transaction services related to loans:
MAP funding is preserved and, as under your budget proposal, increased;
Disadvantaged student scholarships are preserved and enhanced;
Veterans scholarships are preserved and enhanced;
ISAC would continue to provide outreach and training functions to financial aid administrators, parents and others as it does now;
ISAC would continue to maintain the CollegeZone website and services;
ISAC would continue to provide the research and analysis that it does currently;
All current employees performing transaction services related to loans would be offered jobs;
Any students with loans must be legally guaranteed that none of the terms of their loans will be changed by the purchaser of the loan assets;
Benefits offered to current borrowers, such as reduced interest rates for on-time payments, must be the same or better than what the students have now.
Finally, we urge that any dollars generated from the sale of the loan business would remain in higher education to fund, over several years, priorities such as the tuition tax credit, and, if needed, the services that ISAC will continue to perform.
In addition to preserving and enhancing student access, we are encouraged that your budget proposal also signals a commitment to improve salaries for those who teach our students, make important discoveries and share their expertise with citizens throughout the state. Faculty are at the heart of all of our institutions, and we are grateful for the opportunity to build salary competitiveness at Illinois colleges and universities.
We know that you expect governing boards of public universities to serve as responsible stewards of their institutions. We will work with our Boards of Trustees to do our share to balance tuition and fundraising with the state's support to promote excellence and access. Together, we will fulfill our mission to educate students for their careers and their role as citizens in a democracy, to advance knowledge, and to serve the public.
Finally, we want to take this opportunity to collectively emphasize the importance of the capital side of budgets. Excellent faculty and engaged students do their best work and make their greatest contributions in buildings that facilitate learning and discovery. They develop competitive advantages when the technology they use is up to date and advanced connectivity brings the world to the learning environment. Strong capital funding, in addition to strong operating support, keeps our institutions strong. We thank you for your support of enhanced capital funding and look forward to working with you and your staff during this session to pass a healthy capital funding bill that contains desperately needed funds for public universities. We pledge our support to you in this effort.
Once again, we are pleased to support your budget for higher education. It reflects the priorities we all share: access for students through the College Tuition Tax Credit and MAP funding, support for faculty, continuation of core services for students and families through ISAC while generating revenue from loan assets, and a commitment to build momentum on the capital side to maintain our investment in Illinois ' educational facilities.
We look forward to working with you to ensure this higher education budget is adopted for Fiscal Year 2007.
Dr. C. Alvin Bowman, President, Illinois State University
Dr. John G. Peters, President, Northern Illinois University
Dr. Elnora D. Daniel, President, Chicago State University
Dr. Glenn Poshard, President, Southern Illinois University
Dr. Stuart I. Fagan, President, Governors State University
Dr. Salme Harju Steinberg, President, Northeastern Illinois University
Dr. Al Goldfarb, President, Western Illinois University
Dr. B. Joseph White, President, University of Illinois
Mr. Louis V. Hencken, President, Eastern Illinois University