The budget that Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed this week recommends a 16 percent cut to higher education. This year's proposed cut sounds gentler than the 32 percent reduction Rauner recommended last year. But instead of being spread across higher education, virtually all of the pain would fall upon the state's universities.
These proposed reductions come after higher education has gone without state funding of any kind for more than seven months.
James Applegate, executive director of the state board of higher education, says low-income students who rely on the state's Monetary Award Program are bearing the brunt of the current budget impasse.
"And we're concerned that this breaking the trust on MAP could lead a lot of students to just not even apply. Because why? And that would be a tragedy," he said.
Rauner's budget would, if enacted, fund MAP at the 2015 level.
If the existence of an industry of similar size and power was threatened, state officials would try to save it, Applegate said. He cited a recent study that shows 56 percent of Illinois jobs require a baccalaureate degree, and only 19 percent of the workforce has one -- an argument he says isn’t out of step with the governor’s pro-business agenda.
"Unless you are supporting the college education -- two and four-year -- of your workforce,” Applegate says, “you're not investing in the future."