February 24th, 2010
By Valeree Dunn
Assistant Editor for Features
The state of Illinois still owes the University of Illinois system more than 400 million dollars. The university has faced the budget crisis and furlough days have been put into place to help set off the costs of the extreme budget deficit. Tuition hikes, layoffs, and program cuts aren’t far behind as the university continues to face this crisis with minimal help from the state.
As the quality, education, and standards of the university have been put into jeopardy, students, instructors, and administration have been forced to take action.
While students and faculty demanded funding from the state in a rally for the MAP Grant at the state capitol in October, the state has yet to fulfill their obligations regarding the funding.
Melissa Newell, assistant director for the Illinois Connection said that people have become a lot more active during this fiscal crisis.
The Illinois Connection is the advocacy network for the University of Illinois, as part of the alumni association for the U of I system. Newell said that enrollment in the advocacy has been “beefing up” during this fiscal crisis. She said that advocacy now has about 5,000 members, whereas it only had about 1,000 members two years ago.
“[People] become a lot more aware when it hits home,” Newell said. “It will affect student programs …. You never know what funding they’re going to cut next.”
The Illinois Connection has been urging students and faculty to continue to take action.
The initiative encourages alumni, students, faculty, and friends of the university to work together to provide unified support during the current economic crisis.
Newell said that the best way for students to get involved is to stay educated and updated on the budget crisis while staying in contact with their legislators.
“The best way is to become part of the advocacy network,” Newell said.
By joining the network, students will receive alerts, updates, and take action notifications urging them to write letters to their legislators.
The advocacy is also organizing a day at the state capitol on April 21 for students to meet with the state’s elected leaders. Students will be able to give their address to the advocacy to determine their own district’s legislators. The advocacy will be setting up meetings between the students and their legislators on that day to help work on the budget crisis.
The initiative is working towards ensuring support and funding through both state and federal governments. The website for the Illinois Connection stressed the importance of the state’s involvement in higher education.
“In order to maintain its high level of academic excellence, the University depends on support from state and federal elected officials,” the Illinois Connection homepage said. “With our current economic crisis it is more important than ever that our elected officials hear unified support for the University.”
Those who wish to get involved in the fight for state funding can join the Illinois Connection advocacy network online at www.supportuillinois.org.