Community College Coalition for Funding
holds Feb. 20 media conference to launch campaign
By Bob Blackwood, Cook County College Teachers Union
SRPINGFIELD -- On February 20, 2008, one hour before Governor Rod Blagojevich gave his 2008 Budget Address, an unheard of coalition of
community college presidents, trustees, students and unionized college teachers and staffers held a media
conference to urge the governor and the General Assembly to give the community colleges a priority when
funding higher education. The Illinois Community College Coalition for Funding is starting its campaign.
As Cook County College Teachers Union President Perry Buckley said: "This coalition conference today is the
first time management and labor are working together with common goals to convince the decision-makers in
Illinois government to give us priority funding."
Afterwards, Buckley commented: "Ninety percent of our community college students stay within the State of
Illinois after their studies are completed. They continue to contribute directly to our state's economy;
they don't leave the state for a warmer climate elsewhere."
Commenting on these students, President Kathy Wessel of the Illinois Community College Trustees Association,
said: "This conference is the beginning of a campaign to articulate the benefits of a community college education
to the public, the governor and the General Assembly. They all benefit by the educated workforce our colleges'
produce. And right now, we are educating one million students in the State of Illinois."
Illinois Federation of Teachers Vice President Bill Naegele, the legislative chair of Buckley's AFT/IFT local,
insisted following the conference proper: "The community college system needs to attain quality and must
have adequate financial support to be affordable for our students. An investment in our students is a
very quick turnaround on return on investment.
"One of the greatest strengths in the community college system is the ability to rapidly adapt to the
ever-changing needs of Illinois employers. If we are to remain a player in the high-tech global economy,
we must have a highly trained workforce. Inadequate funding will hamper Illinois community colleges'
efforts to train students to become active participants in the global economy."
President Terry Bruce of the Council of Community College Presidents laid out the financial problems:
"Community colleges have suffered a downward drop in state funding. The community college funding formulas
pay the colleges for credit hours generated, yet there is a three year lag for funding. Also, the state
funds only 80 percent of those formulas. The community colleges are funded at 1993 levels, and our annual budget
has not increased since 2002."
Student Trustee Lesliefaye Gogins, 36, the mother of two tall daughters and very close to the statistics
for the average community college student, pointed out that increases in tuition costs have started to make
it more difficulty for students to access a higher education.
"Some people say increase tuition. Well, some people cannot afford to pay increased tuition and have to drop out."
Gogins gave up her full-time job and cashed in her IRA to enable her to attend Prairie State College two years ago,
and she knows it will pay off for her. She is an example of how a community college education can enhance
someone's earning potential within the State of Illinois.
Wessel pointed out that the Coalition will continue to be talking to state government officials.
The Coalition's signs saying "Community Colleges: Illinois' Best Investment" will soon be seen throughout
The Coalition's funding is through the Illinois Community College Trustees Association,
the Illinois Council of Community College Presidents, the Illinois Community College System,
the Cook County College Teachers Union/IFT, the Illinois Community College Faculty Association,
the Student Advisory Council and the Illinois Education Association.
As Wessel said at the close of the media conference: "Come on, Illinois, let's put your money where our minds are!"
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