Governor pushes for more college scholarships, doesn't address university funding backlog
CARBONDALE, Ill. — There was one topic noticeably absent from Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's State of the State speech Wednesday: how the state plans to pay the backlog of millions of dollars owed to Illinois colleges and universities.
In the past decade, $30 million in state funding has been slashed from the Southern Illinois University system. That includes campuses in Edwardsville and Carbondale.
Governor Quinn talked about advancing education in Wednesday's address but SIU President Glenn Poshard said for that to happen, the state must get its finances in order.
"It's pretty frustrating for me and a lot of students as well," said Stevie Jesselson, an SIUC sophomore.
Jesselson knows his campus is due a big check.
"It costs so much money for the institutions to run and for students to go to class," said Jesselson.
In fact, the state owes the SIU system $100 million right now.
"We don't know how much longer we can bear up under this stuff," said Poshard.
Poshard said just running the university is a balancing act.
"If public higher education in the state of Illinois is going to stay sound, it is going to require the state to solve their financial mess. And it is a mess. Everyone knows that," said Poshard.
The governor's speech did not get into those financial issues.
But it did include plans to ramp up the MAP scholarship program. That program provides grants to students based on need.
"How he's going to raise that money is an issue," said Poshard.
The concern is where those funds will come from. The state had to turn students away in previous years. Too many qualified and there wasn't enough money.
"It's very difficult to know how that is going to work out in the end," said Poshard.
Stevie Jesselson said he wants to see more kids his age college bound.
"You can say it's important but you have to address that, too, the money," said Jesselson.
But the cost of getting them there is still to be dealt with.
That's on top of keeping the doors open in the first place.
Governor Quinn also announced a new education goal. He wants 60 percent of the state's adults to have a degree or career certificate by 2025.
He said more dollars need to be invested in early childhood education to meet that benchmark.