Statement on Illinois’ Proposed Budget
February 25, 2022
Last week, Women Employed spoke in front of the House Appropriations — Higher Education Committee in support of Governor Pritzker’s proposed budget for higher education.
The word that comes to mind when reviewing this budget is “opportunity.” By realizing this budget, Illinois has an opportunity to make up for years of disinvestment and to support students at all levels of postsecondary education. An additional $122 million for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) will allow thousands more students to afford a college education―especially women, Black and Latina/o/x students, students from low-income households, and nontraditional adult students. And by expanding MAP to short-term credential programs, students can get the financial aid they need to start down a path toward better jobs and, possibly, further degree attainment. Increased investments in career and technical education, adult education and literacy, and healthcare pathways will also ensure more students can enter and persist in postsecondary education.
Governor Pritzker’s proposed 5 percent increase in institutional funding would also be transformative for students. With this new investment, we can begin to realize the goals of the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s Strategic Plan, to close equity gaps for students who have been left behind. It is our stance that it is not enough to simply invest new money in the same old ways; we need to use this opportunity to equitably distribute this new funding in a way that ensures that our students of color and students from low-income households — and institutions that serve disproportionate numbers of these students — are prioritized.
However, there are also missed opportunities in the proposed budget. Forty-four percent of college students reported having symptoms of depression and anxiety in the last year, yet our colleges and universities are not equipped to adequately support students’ mental health. Illinois must invest in students’ health, starting with $19 million in funding in FY 2023. By neglecting to expand the Earned Income Credit, the Governor’s proposed budget loses out on the chance to provide 4.5 million low-income Illinoisans with tax relief. This funding would directly benefit individuals and families who are struggling to pay their bills in light of an ongoing pandemic.
While there are a few areas where it could do more, Governor Pritzker’s budget is largely a thoughtful, intentional proposal that prioritizes the needs of Illinois hard-working women and families. We urge the General Assembly to support the commitments in the budget, distribute new funding equitably, and push for critical funding for the Earned Income Credit and mental health supports on our college campuses. Together, we can bring forth a brighter future for Illinois.