Opinion

Letter to the Editor: After Years of Neglect, Gov. Pritzker Makes Bold Investments to Rebuild Higher Education

Courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsIllinois Governor J.B. Pritzker replaced incumbent Bruce Rauner after a campaign focused on higher education improvements in the state.

Funding halted. Classes and programs cut. Teachers furloughed and let go. MAP grants withheld. Students fled and never looked back.

That was the reality of higher education in Illinois under the previous administration.

But I’m happy to say those dark days are over.

In the words of Governor JB Pritzker, “we are rebuilding the public’s confidence in our state’s colleges and universities as world class institutions and as economic engines in communities across Illinois.”

Just months under new leadership, higher education in Illinois is being rebuilt and reimagined for the next generation.

This year’s state budget increases funding for public universities by over $50 million and increases funding for community colleges by $14 million. It makes college more affordable by expanding merit-based scholarships and MAP grants to 7,000 more students while also increasing the size of those grants. With an additional $50 million for MAP grants this year and a commitment to continuing those increases into the future, the governor is proud to make good on his campaign promise and revitalize this vital program with an additional $200 million in funding over four years.

And while some students faced barriers to lower the rising costs of getting a degree, the governor signed a new law expanding access to financial aid for all students – no matter their background, immigration status or gender identity.

But it doesn’t end there. The Rebuild Illinois capital plan makes $2.9 billion worth of investments that will propel our higher education institutions into the future. Over the next six years, new state-of-the-art facilities will open across the state and desperately needed maintenance that has been put off for years will finally begin. Rebuilding our higher education system will attract even more students to our world-class institutions.

Governor Pritzker would be the first to say that we have more work to do, and that this year’s investments in higher education are a down payment while we work to stabilize Illinois’ finances and start paying down the state’s $15 billion backlog of bills – so that the next generation doesn’t have to clean up this mess.

But after years of neglect, university leaders have called this year’s action “a major turn in the right direction” and “an exciting time for higher ed in general in this state, and I couldn’t say that a year ago or three years ago.”

We’re beginning to take our system of higher education to new heights of success, and we look forward to all we can accomplish together in the next few years.

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