Members of the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus are calling attention to serious issues with a proposed funding formula for the state’s higher education system. The Senators held a press conference on April 18th to inform the public about the changes that could be coming to university funding.

“Our universities play a vital role in shaping our state’s future, so it is important that any new funding model is carefully considered and evaluated,” said State Senator Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City).

The Senators pointed to elements of the formula that base the amount of funding to state universities on a student’s race. The formula would fund higher education institutions on a per-student basis, with tiers of $2,000, $4,000, $6,000, and $8,000, based on multiple factors including race. 

They noted that under the recent SFA v. Harvard ruling, basing funding levels on race is likely unconstitutional. Additionally, that type of plan would violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, jeopardizing any and all federal funding for the schools. The Senators pointed to the University of Illinois as an example of the significant federal funding that could be in jeopardy. According to the University of Illinois, they received more than $750 million in federal grants in 2023.

“This proposed funding formula not only fails the test of legality but also falls short on moral grounds, revealing a concerning disregard for the well-being and future of our state’s higher education system,” said State Senator Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet). “To pass this as it stands now without necessary amendments to bring it line with the Equal Protection Claus of the Constitution, will not end well for universities, faculty, students, and their families”.

The Senators pointed to additional concerns and questions with the proposed formula, including the fact that it does not consider the cost of operating medical schools or graduate programs.

“We must look at ways to fund our universities effectively,” said Senator Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg). “Any new formula must represent the actual needs of our universities, including facility costs, graduate programs, and post-graduate programs like medical schools.”

The proposed funding formula has been attributed to the Illinois Commission on Equitable Public University Funding. However, two of the Senators at the press conference were members of the Commission, and they noted that neither the formula or the report it was contained in were ever voted on by the full Commission and did not represent the consensus of the members.

“The people of our state have the right to transparency and the ability to review any proposal that would change how our state administers funding for public universities,” said State Senator Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro). “Any attempt to make such a change without thoroughly addressing the public’s questions and concerns is unacceptable and should be considered a non-starter for Illinois lawmakers.”

The Senators said they are hoping to draw attention to the proposed formula and ensure proper vetting before it can become law. They all noted the need for a stable, equitable, and reasonable formula for funding higher education, but believe the process of developing a formula needs to be transparent.

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