Governor Pritzker addresses higher education investments at Illini Union


Samantha Boyle

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker outside the Illini Union on Wednesday talking to students at the Sustainable Student Farm stand. Pritzker talked about the new capital construction program in the Illini Union earlier that day.

By Samantha Boyle, News Editor

Addressing the crowd with some humor and some seriousness, Governor J.B. Pritzker was at the Illini Union Wednesday to discuss the state’s new capital construction program on higher education.

“We are investing $45 billion over six years to repair what’s broken and to build what’s needed all while supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs across the state,” Pritzker said.

The program, Rebuild Illinois, is the largest capital plan in state history and will impact all public universities and colleges in Illinois. Presidents from some of these institutions, including Illinois State University, Southern Illinois University and Chicago State University, spoke and attended this event on Wednesday. University of Illinois System President Tim Killeen also spoke.

All shared their gratitude toward Pritzker and his call to action for higher education.

However, Pritzker said the majority of the plan addresses transportation infrastructure because the government has let maintenance problems pile up over decades.

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    “We are turning that around,” he said, adding he is very proud Champaign County will eventually have some of the best roads in the country.

    Although transportation infrastructure is what the majority of the plan focuses on, Pritzker went on to talk about the $3 billion to be put to use in higher education.

    “We are rebuilding the public’s confidence in our state’s colleges and universities as the world class institutions that they are and as economic engines and communities across our entire state,” he said.

    He said about half of Illinois graduating high school students go out of state to attend “better-funded” colleges, and out of the students who leave Illinois, 70% don’t come back because they’ve already found jobs and new homes in the other states, he said.

    “We want our brightest minds to stay here,” Prtizker said. “And we can do that. Illinois can and must do better.”

    Rebuild Illinois is about investing in these public institutions. Other speakers at the event, mentioned the importance of viewing this plan as an investment, as well.

    “Rebuild Illinois is not a spending plan; it’s an investment,” said Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton.

    Carol Ammons, Illinois state representative of the 103 district, said this is a historical investment and told the audience they will hear the word investment many more times when talking about this plan.

    Part of this investment is a $100 million quantum physics partnership between the University and the University of Chicago. The hope for this partnership is that it will attract some of the greatest researchers to the state.

    “Maybe it’d sound more mundane to you when we’re building buildings on campuses and expanding programs on campuses that don’t have ‘quantum’ in the name,” Pritzker said, adding the Springfield campus is getting a new library and the Chicago campus is building a computer design, research and learning center. Eastern and Western Illinois University are also getting new science buildings on their campuses.

    Northern Illinois University, Illinois State University, Chicago State University and many community colleges are being invested in, too, after years of disinvestment, Pritzker said.

    Pritzker ended his speech saying, “the future of Illinois is bright, and our best days are ahead.”

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