‘The sun is rising’

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WIU President Jack Thomas delivers positive outlook

MACOMB — On Thursday, members of the university community gathered in Western Hall for the first University Assembly and heard a message of positivity during Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas’ State of the University address.
Thomas referenced Benjamin Franklin’s quote regarding the sun cast on the back of the 1787 Constitutional Convention president’s chair.
The original Franklin quote states: “I have often … in the course of the session … looked at that sun behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”
Thomas likened the future of Western Illinois University as that under a rising sun in the wake of the recent state budget impasse.
“The sun is rising on Western Illinois University,” Thomas told assembly attendees.  
“We have weathered some difficult days.  But through the midst of it all, we have created a solid foundation for future success.”
In a recent statement to the university community, Thomas stated the university must continue moving forward with “guarded optimism” in light of the recent governmental and financial woes.
Part of that includes preparing new goals for the administration.
According to Thomas, six goals for the 2017-2018 academic year include:
• Investing in high-growth and high-demand programs.
• Expanding educational opportunities, including new and enhanced academic degree programs.
• Enhancing recruitment and retention strategies.
• Expanding public service and community engagement efforts.
• Increasing external funding to limit cost increases for students.
• Continue mission-driven planning and fiscal management.

A hand-out presented at the assembly notes the annual impact of Western Illinois University on the 16-county region. Impacts include the generation of $473 million, 3,905 full-time and part-time employees, $226 million in labor income and $74 million in local, state and federal revenue.
Eight-nine percent of the university undergraduate students are from Illinois. The student makeup includes 61 percent as Pell grant eligible, 46 percent are MAP grant eligible, 42 percent are first generation freshmen, 20.9 is the average incoming student ACT score and 3.21 is the average incoming high school student GPA.
Regarding racial or ethnic makeup, 64 percent of students are white or caucasian, 11 percent are hispanic, 19 percent are African-American, one percent are Asian, and five percent are from the international community.
Thomas stated the FY18 fiscal year should receive $46.3 million in appropriations based on the state budget. He noted this is a 10 percent reduction from the previous FY15 full appropriation of $51.4 million. There is an estimated $10.4 million incoming for FY18 MAP funding. The state has appropriated $10.9 million to cover the FY17 MAP funding and an additional $20.1 million to raise the prior FY17 total to $59 million.
Students begin classes on Monday.

Reach Jared DuBach by email at jdubach@mcdonoughvoice.com.

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August 20, 2017 at 12:05AM

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‘The sun is rising’

‘The sun is rising’

http://ift.tt/2vPnnna

WIU President Jack Thomas delivers positive outlook

MACOMB — On Thursday, members of the university community gathered in Western Hall for the first University Assembly and heard a message of positivity during Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas’ State of the University address.
Thomas referenced Benjamin Franklin’s quote regarding the sun cast on the back of the 1787 Constitutional Convention president’s chair.
The original Franklin quote states: “I have often … in the course of the session … looked at that sun behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”
Thomas likened the future of Western Illinois University as that under a rising sun in the wake of the recent state budget impasse.
“The sun is rising on Western Illinois University,” Thomas told assembly attendees.  
“We have weathered some difficult days.  But through the midst of it all, we have created a solid foundation for future success.”
In a recent statement to the university community, Thomas stated the university must continue moving forward with “guarded optimism” in light of the recent governmental and financial woes.
Part of that includes preparing new goals for the administration.
According to Thomas, six goals for the 2017-2018 academic year include:
• Investing in high-growth and high-demand programs.
• Expanding educational opportunities, including new and enhanced academic degree programs.
• Enhancing recruitment and retention strategies.
• Expanding public service and community engagement efforts.
• Increasing external funding to limit cost increases for students.
• Continue mission-driven planning and fiscal management.

A hand-out presented at the assembly notes the annual impact of Western Illinois University on the 16-county region. Impacts include the generation of $473 million, 3,905 full-time and part-time employees, $226 million in labor income and $74 million in local, state and federal revenue.
Eight-nine percent of the university undergraduate students are from Illinois. The student makeup includes 61 percent as Pell grant eligible, 46 percent are MAP grant eligible, 42 percent are first generation freshmen, 20.9 is the average incoming student ACT score and 3.21 is the average incoming high school student GPA.
Regarding racial or ethnic makeup, 64 percent of students are white or caucasian, 11 percent are hispanic, 19 percent are African-American, one percent are Asian, and five percent are from the international community.
Thomas stated the FY18 fiscal year should receive $46.3 million in appropriations based on the state budget. He noted this is a 10 percent reduction from the previous FY15 full appropriation of $51.4 million. There is an estimated $10.4 million incoming for FY18 MAP funding. The state has appropriated $10.9 million to cover the FY17 MAP funding and an additional $20.1 million to raise the prior FY17 total to $59 million.
Students begin classes on Monday.

Reach Jared DuBach by email at jdubach@mcdonoughvoice.com.

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August 20, 2017 at 12:05AM

‘The sun is rising’

‘The sun is rising’

http://ift.tt/2vPnnna

WIU President Jack Thomas delivers positive outlook

MACOMB — On Thursday, members of the university community gathered in Western Hall for the first University Assembly and heard a message of positivity during Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas’ State of the University address.
Thomas referenced Benjamin Franklin’s quote regarding the sun cast on the back of the 1787 Constitutional Convention president’s chair.
The original Franklin quote states: “I have often … in the course of the session … looked at that sun behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”
Thomas likened the future of Western Illinois University as that under a rising sun in the wake of the recent state budget impasse.
“The sun is rising on Western Illinois University,” Thomas told assembly attendees.  
“We have weathered some difficult days.  But through the midst of it all, we have created a solid foundation for future success.”
In a recent statement to the university community, Thomas stated the university must continue moving forward with “guarded optimism” in light of the recent governmental and financial woes.
Part of that includes preparing new goals for the administration.
According to Thomas, six goals for the 2017-2018 academic year include:
• Investing in high-growth and high-demand programs.
• Expanding educational opportunities, including new and enhanced academic degree programs.
• Enhancing recruitment and retention strategies.
• Expanding public service and community engagement efforts.
• Increasing external funding to limit cost increases for students.
• Continue mission-driven planning and fiscal management.

A hand-out presented at the assembly notes the annual impact of Western Illinois University on the 16-county region. Impacts include the generation of $473 million, 3,905 full-time and part-time employees, $226 million in labor income and $74 million in local, state and federal revenue.
Eight-nine percent of the university undergraduate students are from Illinois. The student makeup includes 61 percent as Pell grant eligible, 46 percent are MAP grant eligible, 42 percent are first generation freshmen, 20.9 is the average incoming student ACT score and 3.21 is the average incoming high school student GPA.
Regarding racial or ethnic makeup, 64 percent of students are white or caucasian, 11 percent are hispanic, 19 percent are African-American, one percent are Asian, and five percent are from the international community.
Thomas stated the FY18 fiscal year should receive $46.3 million in appropriations based on the state budget. He noted this is a 10 percent reduction from the previous FY15 full appropriation of $51.4 million. There is an estimated $10.4 million incoming for FY18 MAP funding. The state has appropriated $10.9 million to cover the FY17 MAP funding and an additional $20.1 million to raise the prior FY17 total to $59 million.
Students begin classes on Monday.

Reach Jared DuBach by email at jdubach@mcdonoughvoice.com.

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August 20, 2017 at 12:05AM

‘The sun is rising’

‘The sun is rising’

http://ift.tt/2vPnnna

WIU President Jack Thomas delivers positive outlook

MACOMB — On Thursday, members of the university community gathered in Western Hall for the first University Assembly and heard a message of positivity during Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas’ State of the University address.
Thomas referenced Benjamin Franklin’s quote regarding the sun cast on the back of the 1787 Constitutional Convention president’s chair.
The original Franklin quote states: “I have often … in the course of the session … looked at that sun behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”
Thomas likened the future of Western Illinois University as that under a rising sun in the wake of the recent state budget impasse.
“The sun is rising on Western Illinois University,” Thomas told assembly attendees.  
“We have weathered some difficult days.  But through the midst of it all, we have created a solid foundation for future success.”
In a recent statement to the university community, Thomas stated the university must continue moving forward with “guarded optimism” in light of the recent governmental and financial woes.
Part of that includes preparing new goals for the administration.
According to Thomas, six goals for the 2017-2018 academic year include:
• Investing in high-growth and high-demand programs.
• Expanding educational opportunities, including new and enhanced academic degree programs.
• Enhancing recruitment and retention strategies.
• Expanding public service and community engagement efforts.
• Increasing external funding to limit cost increases for students.
• Continue mission-driven planning and fiscal management.

A hand-out presented at the assembly notes the annual impact of Western Illinois University on the 16-county region. Impacts include the generation of $473 million, 3,905 full-time and part-time employees, $226 million in labor income and $74 million in local, state and federal revenue.
Eight-nine percent of the university undergraduate students are from Illinois. The student makeup includes 61 percent as Pell grant eligible, 46 percent are MAP grant eligible, 42 percent are first generation freshmen, 20.9 is the average incoming student ACT score and 3.21 is the average incoming high school student GPA.
Regarding racial or ethnic makeup, 64 percent of students are white or caucasian, 11 percent are hispanic, 19 percent are African-American, one percent are Asian, and five percent are from the international community.
Thomas stated the FY18 fiscal year should receive $46.3 million in appropriations based on the state budget. He noted this is a 10 percent reduction from the previous FY15 full appropriation of $51.4 million. There is an estimated $10.4 million incoming for FY18 MAP funding. The state has appropriated $10.9 million to cover the FY17 MAP funding and an additional $20.1 million to raise the prior FY17 total to $59 million.
Students begin classes on Monday.

Reach Jared DuBach by email at jdubach@mcdonoughvoice.com.

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August 20, 2017 at 12:05AM

‘The sun is rising’

WIU President: “State of the University is okay”

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WIU President: “State of the University is okay”

Posted:

Thursday, August 17, 2017 6:24 PM EDT

The 2017 University Assembly at WIU in Macomb
The 2017 University Assembly at WIU in Macomb

MACOMB, Ill. (WGEM) –

A roller coaster ride, that’s how the president of Western Illinois University described the state budget impasse’s impact on his student’s in an address on Thursday.

Jack Thomas summarized the state of the university as “okay,” but getting better because the state has finally approved a budget which will give WIU $46.3 million in state appropriations, but that’s still short about $7-million from what they’re used to budgeting, so they’re not out of the woods yet.

“So now we can begin to rebuild, however, we do know that we have to be very cautious and we have to be very fiscally conservative because we don’t know what the future holds,” Thomas said.

Thomas says the impasse made a big impact on the university. With two years of no budget, he said the university’s reserves are gone.

“Hopefully at some point, when the state continues to come through with funding and show us that it is going to continue to invest in higher education, then hopefully we can rebuild our reserve and put that back in place,” Thomas added.

Thomas also laid out plans to step up new student recruitment and the goal of stabilizing enrollment at 10,000 students.

.

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August 17, 2017 at 06:41PM

WIU President: “State of the University is okay”

MAP grants provide relief for NIU students

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DeKALB – In her first year at Northern Illinois University, sophomore chemistry major Racquel Vonch of Joliet was financially secure enough to survive without the assistance of a Monetary Award Program grant.

Heading into the 2017-18 school year, however, Vonch became one of thousands of Illinois undergrads who, reliant on the assistance program for low-income students, anxiously waited to see if the Illinois General Assembly would release MAP grant funding as part of an agreement to end the state’s budget impasse.

"I received good financial standing with NIU as a freshman and with the financial packet I had as a freshman, I was sold to the university," Vonch said. "I was worried about the budget and not getting a MAP grant or to come up with the money if I had to pay it back."

Unofficial numbers from the 2016-17 school year show that at NIU alone, 5,342 students were recipients of MAP grants, which amounted to more than $19 million in funding.

Their collective uneasiness was eventually ended by the passage of a full-year budget after the Democrat-controlled Legislature overrode Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s total veto of a budget plan that included a permanent tax increase and MAP grant appropriations.

If the Legislature did not approve a budget, Vonch said she likely would have had to pick up more hours at her pharmacy technician job at Jewel-Osco and set up a payment plan with the university. In spite of the unpredictable consequences of the budget impasse, however, Vonch said that nothing would have stopped her from attending the university she loves.

“I would’ve figured out a way to stay here,” said Vonch, who worked a summer internship for the university’s Office of Orientation and Family Connections.. “I love how close-knit everyone is and how everyone is able to give a helping hand. There could be a professor you’ve only been in class with for a couple of weeks and they instantly want to help you.”

NIU has had the good fortune of being able to fund MAP grants during the budget impasse, but has informed recipients that, should the state fail to fund the program, they may be on the hook for some or all of the grant money, which amounts to a maximum annual award of around $4,720.

NIU spokesman Joe King said students should receive their 2017-18 MAP grants on time, and the state has reimbursed the university for the grants from past years.

Had the MAP grant funds had not been appropriated for this fiscal year, Vonch said she probably would have had to resort to additional student loans, which she said could become burdensome ahead of three more years of college and pharmacy school.

“It’s one less loan that I don’t have to take out, which is always helpful,” Vonch said. “Now I’m not having to kill myself during the school year to come up with the extra money."

The MAP appropriation for fiscal 2018 is $401 million, compared with the assumption of $373 million the Illinois Student Assistance Commission used to originally estimate 2017-18 MAP grants.

“Because of this additional funding, ISAC will not only fully fund previously announced awards, they are planning to extend the cutoff date increasing the total number of recipients and to make adjustments to the eligibility formula,” King said.

In an email to students and staff after the passage of the budget in July, interim NIU President Lisa Freeman said the MAP grant funding will alleviate the stress on new and returning students reliant on the grants and allow them to focus on their educational goals.

“Even though we are grateful for the clarity and security provided by this latest action, it does not alter the fact that we have absorbed a funding shortfall of more than $65 million over the last three years,” Freeman said in the message. “We must continue the work to enhance the financial stability of NIU by increasing enrollment, becoming more efficient and aligning our resources with our priorities.”

A tool for students and families to calculate estimated MAP grant eligibility is available on the ISAC website.

Should the state of Illinois face another budget dispute that puts MAP grants in danger, Vonch said she’ll worry about it then.

“It’s always scary,” Vonch said. “I guess I’ll hit that path when I come to it. I don’t know what the financial situation will be then, so I’m just taking it a year at a time.”

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August 15, 2017 at 06:28PM

MAP grants provide relief for NIU students

This Illinois Republican faced a choice: Vote for a tax increase or ‘let it burn.’ | Reading Eagle – AP

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(c) 2017, The Washington Post.

CHARLESTON, Ill. – Reggie Phillips had all the right qualifications to get elected to the state House from this rural community about 200 miles and a world away from Chicago. The silver-haired businessman was successful and self-made, a born-again Christian with a deeply conservative, low-tax message.

But that was in 2014. A two-year partisan standoff over the budget rattled his district, leaving the university that is its economic engine struggling for survival. So a few months into his second term as a member of the Illinois House, Phillips broke with most of the state’s other Republicans and voted for a budget that raised the state income tax 32 percent.

“My choices were, let it burn or come back and fight another day,” recalled Phillips, 64, sitting low in his chair in the dining room of a hotel he owns here. “I’m really not interested in seeing my state burn.”

Phillips is not alone. Across the country, Republicans who had long adhered to anti-tax approaches are defying party orthodoxy and voting to raise taxes, bending in the face of dire financial problems plaguing their state budgets and pressure from constituents.

In South Carolina, Indiana and Tennessee, Republicans voted to increase gas taxes. In Alaska, some Republicans proposed reinstating the income tax to fill a gaping hole in the budget caused by low oil prices. In Michigan, a dozen Republicans joined with Democrats in the legislature to sink a proposal to reduce the income tax.

Kansas most famously became a cautionary tale this year after the Republican-controlled legislature rolled back a series of dramatic tax cuts that did not turbocharge the economy – as Republican Gov. Sam Brownback had promised – but rather left the state in debt and schools underfunded.

The fight also is playing out in Washington, where Republicans who control Congress could take up tax reform as their next priority. President Trump has promised to enact the a huge tax cut, but he is expected to face resistance from moderates within his party.

The resistance is mounting within a faction of the GOP because Republicans are finding that the low-tax dogma they espouse either doesn’t work or isn’t favored by voters, said Bruce Bartlett, an economist who served in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.

“There are massive and growing pressures to spend money on things that people want government to spend money on, and there just isn’t any way of doing that without raising revenue,” Bartlett said. “If you view tax cuts and spending increases as opposites, the trend has moved in the direction of spending, and that has changed the political calculation that raising taxes is a viable option.”

But to hard-liners in the GOP, the actions of Republican defectors like Phillips amount to a betrayal of fundamental party values.

“What’s been exposed is . . . there is this contingent within the GOP of big-government Republicans,” said Dan Proft, an influential Republican strategist and conservative talk show host in Illinois. “They’re afraid to reduce, reshape, rescind benefits that have been conferred even if we can’t afford them.”

Proft is chairman of Liberty Principles, a powerful political action committee allied with Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican. The PAC endorsed Phillips in 2014 and 2016, but Proft said it will not do so in 2018. “I like Reggie personally, he’s a good guy and a decent legislator, but I think he should retire,” Proft said.

Phillips has not said whether he will run for reelection. Of the 16 Illinois Republicans who voted for the budget compromise last month, six have announced plans to retire, Proft said. Days after the vote, Jeremy Yost, a Charleston businessman and Navy veteran, announced his intention to seek Phillips’s seat, deriding the incumbent as a “taxer and spender” – an attack usually reserved for Democrats.

Phillips, a longtime Republican, said the criticism from the “extreme right” has been infuriating. The son of a factory worker, he supported himself through college doing construction work and now owns a hotel, a number of rental properties and a chain of assisted-living facilities.

In 2014, he decided to seek a seat in the state legislature with the notion that he could make the body run more like a business. He pledged to firmly oppose any tax increase unless it was accompanied by reforms favored by the governor, whose “turnaround agenda” includes spending cuts, reform of workers’ compensation and pensions, and a weakening of labor unions.

Upon taking office, Phillips said, he quickly realized that many of his aspirations were just fantasies while Democrats controlled the legislature. And that even within the Republican Party, it can be hard to be heard when you are a little-known junior House member from a rural district on the Indiana border.

“I suppose I was naive,” Phillips said.

It’s not his only change of heart. Phillips campaigned on a promise to serve only two terms. But now he thinks terms should be limited to three or four so that members have time to gain influence and leadership positions.

The vote to pass the budget in Illinois came amid uniquely bleak circumstances. The Republican governor and the Democratic-controlled legislature had failed for more than two years to agree on a plan to address a gap in revenue and spending, with Rauner focusing on his reform agenda and Democrats insisting on a tax increase.

The impasse left the state $15 billion in debt and on the verge of seeing its credit rating downgraded to junk status. The state had no mechanism to pay what it owed to state agencies and social-service nonprofits, forcing them to take out loans or cut services. Universities, already suffering from plummeting enrollment, shed employees and shaved programs. Dentists all but stopped getting paid by the insurance plan that covers state employees; Illinois owed some of them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

With the help of the Republican defectors, the legislature passed a budget last month that included the tax increase but lacked some of Rauner’s reforms, leading the governor to veto it. Then, 11 of those defectors – among them Phillips – helped Democrats override Rauner’s veto.

“If I decide to press my button to override the governor, it doesn’t make me any less a conservative Republican than the rest of the people that stand in here,” Phillips said on the floor before casting his veto override vote, according to a transcript by the Effingham Daily News. Ultimately, one “has to vote for his district.”

The stalemate had particularly squeezed rural communities like Charleston, where many residents are state workers. The town, which has a population of 21,000, was starting to see the trickle-down effect of the woes of its centerpiece, Eastern Illinois University – particularly the layoffs, which numbered more than 300, according to union figures.

Phillips said he held out as long as he could but finally decided to support the budget plan, in large part to rescue the university.

While many constituents thanked him for his vote, the blowback from conservatives was fierce.

Facebook began filling up with angry comments from friends and neighbors, calling him a traitor. In one particularly painful episode, a farmer whose daughter had dated Phillips’s son for four years used crude language to suggest that he was beholden to the Democratic House speaker, Michael J. Madigan.

At the same time, many of those who pressured Phillips to support the budget were less than celebratory.

Jerri Boughan, a dentist from Lawrenceville, had pleaded with Phillips to support the budget. Because a number of her patients are state employees, she said, the government owes her about $120,000. More concerning, she said, was the fact that many of those patients were so embarrassed that their bills were going unpaid that they put off necessary visits.

Despite the budget’s passage, the state has not said how it will reimburse her and other dentists. Yet her employees have already suffered the results of the tax increase.

“I understand why Reggie went across party lines and tried to agree with someone to do something, because we were at a stalemate for three years. Someone had to give,” she said. At the same time, “I hate it for my employees that July 1, wham-bam, thank you, ma’am, they got an automatic 2 percent taken out of their paychecks.”

Kai Hung, a biology professor and faculty union official at Eastern Illinois, said he is grateful that the impasse is over.

On the first floor of the life sciences building, which he said was constructed in 1964, he pointed up at a ceiling of exposed pipes and sagging electrical wires. That, he said, was the result of a modernization project that abruptly stopped when the state budget impasse struck.

“I appreciate their vote,” Hung said of Phillips and other Republican defectors. “But I am not going to forget that for two years before that, they voted knowing . . . the kind of damage they are doing to their communities.”

Today, the legislature is embroiled in another stalemate, this time over schools.

While the July budget authorized funding for K-12 education, lawmakers put off an acrimonious debate about how to divvy up that money across the state. Democrats in the Chicago area are seeking what they view as their students’ fair share, while the governor and Republicans accuse them of seeking a bailout because of the district’s poor handling of the pension system.

This time, Phillips said, he is 100 percent behind the governor and has no plans to cross party lines.

illinois

_____

Keywords: Illinois, Illinois budget, Illinois income tax, Illinois tax increase, Republicans, Republicans voting for taxes, taxes, taxation, Reggie Phillips, Sam Brownback

This Illinois Republican faced a choice: Vote for a tax increase or ‘let it burn.’ | Reading Eagle – AP