A coalition representing 24 Illinois university and college student government organizations submitted an open letter to Governor Bruce Rauner and other members of the Illinois state legislature in response to the lack of a state budget. The letter discusses the importance of higher education funding to Illinois students, but also the vital role that higher education plays in the state economy as a source of employment and a supply of skilled, educated labor. The student coalition is calling upon lawmakers to “close the gap between their differences in opinions in order to fund higher education,” and that students “will continue to protest and lobby…until the state passes a clean bill.”
This initiative started with the Northern Illinois University Student Association, NIU’s student government organization, which authorized the initiative and approved the letter’s language during a February 28th meeting of their Student Senate. 17 additional universities, 7 colleges, and the student board member to the Illinois Board of Higher Education have signed on to the open letter. 6 schools additionally submitted letters of their own, which were included with the coalition letter. Students Timothy Brandner and Matthew Holt delivered these letters on Monday to Gov. Rauner, Speaker Madigan, President Cullerton, Rep. Lang, Rep. Burke, Rep. Currie, and Rep. Turner. At the time the letter only had 21 signatures, but have gained 3 more since Monday.
The letter also addresses comments made by Gov. Rauner during a speech to a joint session of the General Assembly when he stated that he would sign a clean bill for increased K-12 funding if one were sent to him. It calls into question Rauner’s reasoning, arguing that K-12 funding is moot if “those highly qualified Illinois high school graduates all leave the state for college because their preferred in-state college has either closed, is in serious financial jeopardy, or has fallen in educational ranking due to a lack of state funding.” The coalition suggests that investing in one level of education is useless without investing in the other. The letter closes with a warning to elected officials that students will oppose anyone during the November election who blocked state funding.
A copy of the open letter, any of the letters submitted by other schools, or a list of support student governments is available upon request.