The budget crisis in Illinois is out of control and threatens the future of higher ed in the state.

Reboot Illinois reports.

Budget Crisis “On The Verge Of Dismantling” Illinois Higher Education System

University presidents and other Illinois higher education officials on Thursday told lawmakers they must decide what they want from the state’s colleges and universities.

Higher education hasn’t received state funding outside its pension contributions for this fiscal year, and Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration is proposing a fiscal 2017 budget that calls for a roughly 20 percent reduction in spending.

“Not to state the obvious, but we’re in a bind and the immediate solution is to get us a budget for this year,” Jim Applegate, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, told a state Senate appropriations committee.

Illinois, he said, “is on the verge of dismantling a well-regarded higher education system.”

Since 2010, state support of public colleges and universities has declined by about $1.1 billion when adjusted for inflation, Applegate and other officials said.

Applegate said state government should commit to a three-year, stable funding level while the higher education systems commit to increasing efficiency and affordability.

Senators, particularly Republican members of the panel, focused on what Illinois can do to bring down its higher education costs — or at least put more dollars in the classroom.

Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, asked how pension obligation affects the amount of money that makes it to classrooms.

Of about $4.1 billion appropriated for higher education in fiscal 2015, more than half went to pensions.

Pension obligations are “literally sucking the air” out of higher education funding, Applegate said. Had the state kept up with its pension payments, leaving itself in a position to mind only current obligations, today’s crisis would be more manageable, he added.