Comptroller offers hope for suburban community colleges

  • Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger addressed financial issues with the College of Lake County board Tuesday.

      Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger addressed financial issues with the College of Lake County board Tuesday. Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer

  • College of Lake County student trustee Yesenia Mata, left, expresses concern about the state budget impasse Tuesday night.

    College of Lake County student trustee Yesenia Mata, left, expresses concern about the state budget impasse Tuesday night.

 
 
Updated 2/24/2016 6:45 PM

Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger offered some financial hope to community colleges, saying state funding for them might be "a couple million dollars higher" if a budget stalemate ends in Springfield.

Munger, who handles the state's checkbook, addressed the lack of money flowing to higher education and other issues at the invitation of College of Lake County board Chairman William Griffin at a meeting Tuesday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Similar to officials at community colleges across Illinois, Griffin said the halt in state funding is a concern at CLC. He said CLC is owed $8 million from the state that was to be part of $100 million in projected revenue in the current budget.

CLC, which dipped into reserve cash to cover the tardy $8 million, is building a 2016-17 budget amid the state's financial uncertainty, he said.

"If we don't get some (state money) soon," Griffin said, "there will be some major issues in the next year's budget, I can guarantee you that."

Sitting at the CLC board table, Munger said the Grayslake-based, two-year school had the financial ability to navigate the lack of state funding since July, unlike most community colleges across Illinois.

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In addition, she noted significant layoffs have occurred at four-year schools, such as Eastern Illinois University, and Chicago State University has floated the possibility of a spring shutdown. Munger said the schools must find a way to continue until the higher education money set aside can flow again for the current budget year ending June 30 and for the 2016-17 financial season.

State funding for community colleges is expected to be "a couple million dollars higher" in the 2016-17 budget, if it is passed, than in 2015-16, she said.

"So going forward, if we get a budget in place, we're not looking at drastic cuts," Munger said. "Really, pretty much same as fiscal (2014-15). But it's getting through this year without a budget and trying to keep, really, the wheels on the bus for everyone so that we can make it through this year and hope that our legislature will get together and pass the balanced budget for fiscal (2016-17)."

Phil Burdick, a spokesman at Palatine-based Harper College, reacting Wednesday to Munger's comments, said the state owes slightly less than $9 million to Harper.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Our biggest concern is that the state find a way to pass a budget so we get the money we are owed for this fiscal year at least, and level funding for the next fiscal year," he said.

Before Munger spoke Tuesday, CLC student trustee Yesenia Mata voiced concern over Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto last week of a proposal to fund community college and tuition grants for students.

Last month, state Democrats approved a plan that would have funneled $324 million to community colleges and $397 million to the Monetary Award Program, but Rauner said the state doesn't have the money.

"I am disappointed that students are being forced to make the decision to either work or attend college," Mata said. "And it really does affect us. So, I just wanted to mention that all students, whether they seek the MAP grant or not, are going to be affected by this budget impasse."

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