Student-body presidents representing 18 Illinois universities and colleges, both public and private, are pressing the governor and legislative leaders for a meeting to discuss the state’s budget crisis.
“There are thousands of college students who have been heavily affected by the budget impasse within our state. We need clarity on the state of the budget conflict so that we can inform the students, faculty, and families whom we represent, and who are deeply impacted by the decisions made in Springfield,” they wrote.
The letter was sent Friday to Gov. Bruce Rauner, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Minority Leader Jim Durkin, Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno.
It was signed by Ron Lewis, student body president at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as well as those from the UI’s Chicago and Springfield campuses and nine other public universities across the state. Also signing were student leaders from the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Olivet Nazarene University, Rockford University, Roosevelt University, Greenville College, Augustana College and Lincoln Land Community College.
Together, the schools represent more than 200,000 Illinois college students.
The students thanked lawmakers for “putting partisan issues aside” to temporarily fund higher education last spring but said that money will soon be exhausted. The partial funding for fiscal 2017 only ran through the end of December.
“Our fiscal uncertainty has caused many of our valued professors to leave our colleges, while also forcing Illinois high school graduates to attend out-of-state schools in pursuit of a college degree. We hope to fix these detrimental trends by working together to solve the problems facing our state,” they said.
The students asked state officials for a meeting to lay out the problems as well as practical solutions to the budget crisis.
“As student leaders who have been personally impacted by Illinois’ budget crisis, we want to work directly with you to move past this impasse as swiftly as possible,” the letter said.
Lewis said student leaders have tried to lobby legislators individually on the budget issue but felt their voices would be stronger together. They want a better sense of where the roadblocks are and a possible timeline for a resolution, he said.
Lewis acknowledged that many higher-level budget efforts have failed — including a bipartisan Senate budget package that failed to advance this week.
But he said they can only try to ensure that student voices are heard.
“Hopefully this can make a difference,” he said. “Enough is enough.”