The new state budget includes $1.3 million in additional money for Illinois State University.
That is the second lowest state appropriation for ISU in recent memory. ISU President Larry Dietz said optimistically said he's still happy.
"The most important part of this though is the important gesture of having a budget, having a reasonable budget for next year, a full budget for the full year, and that is terrific,” said Dietz.
Dietz said he remains determined and hopeful construction will begin on a new Fine Arts complex. He said he was also pleased with the start of a merit scholarship matching program totalling $25 million statewide. Dietz said the goal is to keep some of the high achieving Illinois high school graduates in the state for college, because once they leave, they tend to settle in other states for adulthood.
“The individual who may start school with a MAP program and then a MAP grant and then maybe not get into second year, you essentially interrupted their schooling. So I think that providing that continuity will help with retention of the students who are recipients of MAP.
"But the bottom line is that the MAP program overall is terribly, terribly underfunded. Only 41 percent of students who apply for MAP in the state actually get it, so, in another way, 59 percent of the population does not receive MAP and many of those students don’t go anywhere, and if they don’t go anywhere, we’re leaving the federal Pell grant money on the table and so, my estimation is we ought to be looking at more and more ways to fund MAP to keep our students in Illinois and going to Illinois institutions. I think it’d be a wise investment," said Dietz.
Currently, there is $401.3 million appropriated toward MAP. The state board had requested an additional $100 million in order to aid more students to pursue a higher education. Illinois’s merit program has never been strong, Dietz said, and is still lacking in comparison to neighboring states.
Dietz expressed hope this funding level will not be the new norm for ISU.
“The norm has been decrease, decrease, decrease, so the first thing that we wanted was stability,” said Dietz.
Even a stable budget, he said, might encourage increased prospective students.
Dietz declined to wade into the question whether lawmakers and the governor had not performed their jobs the last several years.
“I think that there was, three years ago, a distinct difference between the two parties and what they thought the role of government should be, and unfortunately a lot of us got caught in that debate. And I think that it has finally come to the point where the most important thing is that people reach across the aisle and they work together and they compromise and collaborate and cajole and persuade but they get together to serve the people of Illinois and their districts and in our case obviously higher education. And they’ve done that, so to me it signals that they obviously can work together and do good things, and I hope that this is a signal for continue to get things done," said Dietz.
Meanwhile, the state budget appropriated $500 million to University of Illinois for the Discovery Partners Institute, an innovation center.
“It’s an ambitious project, one that I think that they hope will attract will attract major industry into Chicago. Whether or not this is the time or not is really left to the politicians to decide, but we’re delighted that the capital appropriations we received. We hope those dollars will be released,” said Dietz.
Dietz hopes to make progress on the new Fine Arts complex for ISU.
“We hope those dollars will be released. The College of Fine Arts has been very patient since 2009, and really since then, and we really hope to build that building. We’re ready to go. The architecture design is completed, and we need it. We’ve already spent about 10 percent of the overall cost of that project on maintenance and fixing pipes that have burst and so forth, and we want to build that project and get that completed so we can move on.”
Since 2009, construction costs have shifted.
“They factor in an automatic inflation rate each year that a project like that is not completed, and so that’s the difference between the originally proposed $54 million and the now proposed $61 million is that automatic inflation piece that’s in that,” said Dietz.
Dietz said ISU will revise the plans but not start over.
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