ISS budget task force looks to lobby Rauner budget cuts

By Charlotte Collins

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed 31.5 percent, or $209 million, reduction in state funding for the University could make the campus experience much closer to that of a private institution, said Mitch Dickey, student body president.

Dickey passed an executive order to create a budget task force by the Illinois Student Senate to address the proposed reduction. He aims to “bring awareness” to the cuts and what areas they will affect, converting awareness “into lobbying power and political effort.”

The University of Illinois Alumni Foundation released an action alert Monday encouraging students to reach out to state and local representatives and express their concerns regarding the budget cuts before the state’s appropriations hearing on March 19.

Dickey said he plans to meet with state representatives, use the upcoming Lobby Day in April and hold a story campaign, focusing on interviews with students talking about how the cuts would impact them directly.

Student employment across campus is one area that will likely be affected by the cuts, Renee Romano, vice chancellor for student affairs, said in February to The Daily Illini.

Leah Matchett, co-chair of the task force and junior in LAS, said she believes the cuts could impact everyone’s university experience by lessening racial and socioeconomic diversity.

“If you’re in a liberal arts degree then most of your degree is going to be centered around discussions, and if the discussions only exist in a world where everyone has enough money, then you get a very different discussion than you would if someone is from a different socioeconomic background,” said Matchett.

Matchett said she believes the interest in the politics of higher education should concern all students and while the voice of the student body may not be the loudest in the conversation, it should be heard nonetheless.

Tuition for fiscal year 2015 pays for 33 percent of the University’s expenses, according to the Office of the Provost’s FY 15 budget report.

“Which technically, if this was a company, would make us majority shareholders,” Matchett said. “I’m not saying we should have majority vote, but I’m saying we should have some say, and that we have a responsibility to be engaged in this.”

Dickey compared the proposed cuts to when Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder cut higher education funding by 15 percent in 2011. Snyder later went on to increase funding each of the next four years.

“The University of Michigan became a considerably whiter student body that they admitted, and they also became richer,” Dickey said. “I think over 60 percent of students at the University of Michigan now come from a socioeconomic background where their parents, families, earn over $100,000. We’re going to continue to see the funding gap made up by bringing in more international and out of state students and I think that’s just a pity.”

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