Add another state to the list of budgetary showdowns playing out between Republican governors and higher education.
First there was Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker proposed dealing with a $2-billion deficit by giving the public-university system more autonomy and, in exchange, cutting $300-million in state funding over two years. Then a close examination of Mr. Walker’s budget proposal showed his office wanted the popular “Wisconsin Idea” and its public-service emphasis stripped out of the system’s mission statement. He later dropped that part of the proposal, saying it was a result of “confusion.”
Second came Louisiana, where Gov. Bobby Jindal is expected to propose a $400-million cut in higher education to help close a $1.6-billion deficit (he is scheduled to formalize the proposal this month). Educators in Louisiana are wringing their hands over the possibility that it will be necessary to close campuses or lay off faculty members in response.
The chopping-block tour of 2015 made its third stop, in Illinois, on Wednesday, where Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed cutting a $1.5-billion deficit by slashing $387-million from higher education in the state, the Chicago Tribune reported. The proposal from Governor Rauner, who took office just last month, would amount to a cut of $209-million for the University of Illinois system, which did not respond warmly to the news.
While stressing that it was still early in the budgeting process, the University of Illinois’s president, Robert A. Easter, wrote in a statement that “reality dictates that we immediately begin preparing for the impact if the legislature ultimately approves a large-scale reduction in funding.” The university has not compromised on quality in past cuts, he wrote, “but we do not have the resources to overcome reductions of this magnitude without harm.”
Governor Rauner was not the only governor on Wednesday to draw criticism for propose cuts in state support for higher education. Officials at both the University of Connecticut and the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System said the budget proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, would leave them a total of $78-million short of what they need, The Hartford Courant reported.