IVCC near a tipping point as state budget talks limp along


If Springfield doesn’t pass a budget – and soon – things could ugly for Illinois Valley Community College.

IVCC banks on the state coming up with between $3.1 million and this fiscal year Springfield scraped together just $611,000. Coupled with a 1 percent drop in property tax values and IVCC had no choice but to raise tuition to meet costs.

“We can’t take another year like that,” IVCC president Jerry Corcoran said at a Monday presentation, during which he’d hoped to plead the college’s case for more and urgent support from the 14 lawmakers in IVCC’s district.

Only state Rep. Jerry Long (R-Streator) accepted an invitation to the event. Long pledged he would “fight tooth and nail” to keep IVCC funding and said there was reason for hope the college would get needed help in the next two months.

“I’m very optimistic we’ll have something by the end of May,” Long said of efforts to pass a budget.

Long said he was encouraged by the fact that Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan had private talks recently, and the fact that Democratic lawmakers have reached out personally to him.

If May 31 comes and goes with no budget, Long predicted, budget talks would spill into special session in June.

The situation is becoming urgent because IVCC depends on state aid for a third of its budget; the remaining two thirds come from property taxes and tuition.

Corcoran and other educators present Monday indicated they are loath to raise either taxes or tuition, but increases to both are on the table if Springfield continues operating without a budget.

The problem will worsen the longer it goes on.

Mike Phillips, a geology instructor, said tuition is rising throughout Illinois and forcing students in need of affordable college credits looking out of state, and then staying there. This in turn leads to Illinois employers scraping for applicants lost to competitors out of state.

“This is just a downward spiral,” Phillips said. “I’m not sure where this ends, but it needs to end soon if we’re going to save higher education in Illinois.”

The problem is even more urgent for financially-needy students. Teresa Gama came here from Mexico, learned English in a whirlwind two years and now is trying to complete her education while raising two small children.

Gama said she’s applied for financial aid and is waiting, fingers crossed, for an answer that could dictate whether she can make a better life for her and her family.

“If this semester I don’t get the help I need,” she said, “this could be the end of my career.”

Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 220-6930 or courtreporter@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_Court.

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May 9, 2017 at 05:46PM

IVCC near a tipping point as state budget talks limp along

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