President Thomas: February 2017 Update Letter
February 17, 2017
Dear University Community,
On February 15, Governor Rauner delivered his 2017 Budget Address to a joint session of the General Assembly at the Capitol. We are pleased that the Governor proposed an increase in MAP grant funding. However, the lack of a full FY16 and FY17 appropriation continues to have a serious impact on public higher education and the entire State of Illinois.
We acknowledge the significant fiscal challenges faced by our state's leaders and have done our part to reduce costs at Western Illinois University. We have requested, and will continue to request, funding that will allow us to continue our mission of educating the citizens of Illinois and beyond. We continue to work closely with our legislators to ensure that Western and Illinois public higher education receive adequate funding.
In his address, the Governor stated that Illinois must be an economic driver in order to recover from the budget crisis that has plagued the state for several years. Last week, I addressed hundreds of people at a Higher Education Rally in the Capitol Rotunda in Springfield and advocated for support of higher education. In my speech, I spoke of higher education as an economic driver for this state and this nation. I delivered the same message to our state legislators that day as well.
Higher education is a driver of personal and economic prosperity. The more education one receives, the more likely one will have a satisfying career and earn higher wages. As a result, the state receives a skilled workforce that can help attract and retain businesses to Illinois. Today's college graduate also translates into tomorrow's tax-paying citizen. There are more than one million public university alumni living in Illinois and contributing to the state's economy. For every dollar that the State of Illinois invests in higher education, there is a $25 return to the economy.
Western's economic impact within a 16-county region in west-central Illinois is approximately $473 million. During FY15, the University created or supported 3,904 full- and part-time employment positions, generating nearly $226 million in labor income and $72 million in local, state, and federal revenues. Higher education should be an integral part in the economic recovery of our state.
Thank you for your continued support.