March 27, 2014

Dear colleagues:

Gov. Quinn unveiled his fiscal 2015 budget blueprint yesterday, and we are grateful that he is seeking alternatives to avert deep spending cuts for higher education and maintain funding at current levels.

The governor’s proposal is predicated on making permanent the temporary increase in the state’s income tax that is set to expire at the end of the year. Without that revenue, the governor recognizes that extreme cuts in the state’s spending would be required, including a 12.5 percent reduction for the University of Illinois.

The reduction would result in an $82.7 million loss of state support for the University and would cut deeply into our core missions of education, research, public service and economic development.  It would be felt in every phase of our operation – student tuition, class sizes, the quality of academic and research programs, medical services and education, our workforce, and the University’s ability to deliver the highly skilled graduates and leading-edge innovation that help drive progress and economic growth.  

The potential 12.5 percent reduction would come on the heels of a decade that saw the University’s annual state appropriation decrease by more than $130 million, along with delays in payments from the state that have at times topped $500 million.

Despite those challenges, we have managed to remain on firm financial footing, maintaining our value to students and society through prudent fiscal stewardship, ongoing efforts to control spending and tuition increases that have shifted more educational costs to our students. But we cannot absorb yet another reduction of this magnitude without considerable pain. We laid out the potential consequences last week during hearings before the House and Senate Higher Education Appropriations Committees and will do everything possible to prevent such an outcome.

The governor’s proposal is the first step in the legislature’s budget process, and we will continue to champion the University’s best interests at every opportunity. Our goal is to hold state funding equal to the current fiscal year, providing the dollars that are so critical to meet the needs of our students, our employees and the state, and maintain the academic and research excellence that is synonymous with the University of Illinois.

Robert A. Easter