JOLIET – Community college leaders support Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget proposal, since they say it will support institutions they call the economic drivers for communities.
Over the past five years, state funding for community colleges has decreased annually, from $316 million in 2010 to $283 million this year, said Matt Berry, Illinois Community College Board legislative liaison.
However, Rauner’s budget proposal calls for no reduction in state funding, despite deep cuts directed at other higher education institutions.
Kelly Rohder, Joliet Junior College spokeswoman, said the college’s leaders appreciate Rauner’s support of community colleges. She said the college has prepared several contingency plans if state support is lacking, but officials will have to wait and see what the final budget looks like.
“At this point, it appears there’s support for the mission of community colleges and we certainly appreciate that,” she said.
The Illinois Community College Board fully supports Rauner’s proposal for community college funding, Berry said. He said ICCB officials will have conversations with state legislators in the coming months about Rauner’s proposal.
“We have never been able to recover those funding cuts and we have experienced additional cuts,” he said.
State dollars are crucial for community colleges, since they are one of three basic sources of funding, Berry said. Colleges also rely on student tuition and local property taxes.
All together, the funding is needed for basic educational services, faculty, classes and instructional equipment.
“[State funding] is a critical component of support and without state support, you’re looking toward the students in terms of tuition and local taxpayers to make up the difference,” Berry said.
He said community colleges are economic drivers and respond to workforce needs, such as demand for new skills.
“We are really on the ground to help provide jobs and education for employment gain,” Berry said.
Rohder said since 1999, JJC has faced declining state support. In the last three to five years, the college has made significant budget cuts. Those cuts, for example, have reduced travel and professional development opportunities, she said.
“Every year we face difficult choices in our budgeting process as we account for declining state funding,” Rohder said.
Kari Nugent, Kankakee Community College spokeswoman, said it’s exciting community colleges continue to be seen as economic engines for communities.
“The governor’s proposal allows us to be committed and agile and responsive to our local community needs,” she said.