State lawmakers have begun considering the budget for state universities. State universities as a whole got a boost this year, but the money went into shoring up pension funds. In terms of operating funds, that number is down 15 percent over the last decade, says Northern Illinois University President Douglas D. Baker, who calls the cuts short-sighted.
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“Is that good public policy? No, it’s not,” he said. “If you play that out for a long period of time, it reduces our competitiveness in this global economy, and it reduces the stability of our democracy. Bad ideas.” However, Baker acknowledges that lawmakers are in a tough spot, with pensions, Medicaid and interest difficult or impossible to cut. Higher education is one area where they can cut.
Baker says cuts in state funding mean increases in tuition, making college unaffordable for the masses. The Illinois House Appropriations-Higher Education Committee will discuss the Fiscal Year 2015 higher education budget this morning. Eventually, state university presidents will be summoned to Springfield to answer to lawmakers.