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New state budget boosts funding for WIU

Western Illinois University and the state’s other public universities will receive a 7% boost in appropriated funding next fiscal year under the budget approved by lawmakers.

“We’re very grateful for it. Any increase is a wonderful thing. It will help shore up our financial sustainability at the institution,” said Shannon Sutton, WIU’s interim Vice President for Finance and Administration.

“As we know, inflation has hit drastically in the last couple years, so it will help provide additional services to students and our personnel.”

The governor must still sign the budget for the funding increase to become official.

Under the plan, WIU would receive an additional $3.6 million for total state-appropriated funds of approximately $55.7 million. That funding pays for salaries and other day-to-day expenses.

Sutton said Western receives around 25% of its budget from the state.

But despite funding increases in recent years, Western is still getting less state funding than it received before the state budget impasse under former Governor Bruce Rauner.

“The level of funding that we’re at now is equal to what we received from the state in Fiscal Year 2012,” Sutton said.

She also said the budget does not include money to address deferred maintenance. WIU officials estimate the university has $500 million in deferred maintenance projects.

Governor touts spending on higher education

Governor JB Pritzker began a tour of the state to tout the new state budget that lawmakers passed last week, stopping at two university campuses Wednesday to highlight the spending plan’s increased funding for higher education.

“With this new budget, we're making it possible for nearly every student from a low-, moderate- or middle-income family to go to community college tuition free,” Pritzker said at the University of Illinois Springfield. “Getting a college or university degree shouldn't strap you in debt for the rest of your life.”

The $50.6 billion budget, which has not yet arrived on Pritzker’s desk, includes a $100 million increase in funding for the state’s needs-based Monetary Award Program, or MAP grants, bringing the total level of funding for that program to $701 million – a 75 percent increase since 2019, when Pritzker first in office.

The higher education budget also includes a $15 million increase in the state’s AIM HIGH merit-based scholarship program and an overall 7 percent increase in the base operating budgets of universities and community colleges.

Pritzker said the increase in base funding was especially important to help schools recruit and retain the best faculty and staff.

“Look what happened in other states, and what happened in Illinois during those bad years five, seven years ago,” he said, referring to the state’s budget impasse of 2015-2017. “Universities had to either lay off faculty or faculty saw how uncertain funding was and they left. ... Now, because we're funding universities properly, university professors, faculty, the people who work at universities have less to fear and more to be optimistic about it.”

After speaking on the UIS campus, Pritzker traveled to the U of I’s Urbana-Champaign campus for a similar event.

Peter Hancock of Capitol News Illinois contributed content to this story. Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.