GEO Disputes Administration Budget Claims, Releases “UI Budget Myths and Facts” Document

UC UNITED RALLY FOR AN ACCESSIBLE, DIVERSE, AND DEMOCRATIC UIUC: March 4, 2010 – assemble at Alma Mater at noon, march at 12:15, rally in front of Swanlund 12:30-12:50.  Electronic versions of flyers and posters can be downloaded here.  RSVP here, and see the event website here.  A copy of the UC United Press release announcing the rally is available here.  Read the “budget myths and facts” sheet after the jump.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: GRADUATE EMPLOYEES’ ORGANIZATION SAYS TUITION INCREASES ARE “NEITHER NECESSARY NOR APPROPRIATE” TO ADDRESS UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS BUDGET SHORTFALL
New fact sheet shows graduate employees generate surplus cash for University of Illinois

URBANA-CHAMPAIGN (March 3): Promoting world-class public education at the University of Illinois does not require a tuition increase, the University of Illinois graduate employees union said today – but it does require transparency about the school’s budget.

“We applaud Interim President Stanley Ikenberry’s March 2nd statements to the Champaign News-Gazette that the U of I will look to cut from administrative programs in response to the current state budget shortfall,” said Peter Campbell, communications officer for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO). “However, the facts show that a tuition increase is neither necessary nor appropriate. The UI administration has failed to explain why money from reserves, the UI Foundation, and cutting from the top will not be enough to address the shortfall.”

In a statement released today, the GEO calls on the UI administration to work transparently and creatively with workers, students and faculty to respond to state budget shortfalls in a manner that does not place the primary burden on workers and students.

The statement, “University of Illinois Budget Myths and Facts,” responds directly to administration budget claims that the GEO feels are questionable.

“Ikenberry’s statements signal a privatized U of I that is accessible only to the wealthy,” said Campbell. “Investing in the university’s workers and students is the best way to build an accessible, diverse and quality educational future for us all.”

Because Illinois citizens, students and low paid workers are suffering the most from the current economy, “it doesn’t make sense for the state to pull out of funding for higher education, and for the University to hike tuition and fees,” said Mukta Tripathy, GEO Officer-at-Large.

The GEO and the newly formed UC United coalition call for a tuition and fee freeze, an end to layoffs and furloughs of workers and faculty, a democratic campus with shared governance in policy decisions, the recruitment and retention of a diverse campus population of workers, students, and faculty that is truly representative of the State of Illinois, and transparency about the UI budget.  The UC United Coalition also calls for progressive state and federal funding for all levels of public education.

The Graduate Employees’ Organization, AFT/IFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, represents approximately 2700 Teaching and Graduate Assistants on the UIUC Campus.  On March 4th, the GEO will join the “UC United” coalition of students, workers, and faculty in Urbana-Champaign will hold a major rally as part of the March 4th National Day of Action to Defend Public Education.

For more information, please contact Peter Campbell, GEO Communications Officer, at 253-222-5861 or odell.campbell@gmail.com.  More information can also be found on our website at uigeo.org.

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Read the fact sheet after the jump:

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS BUDGET MYTHS AND FACTS

MYTH: THE STATE BUDGET CRISIS HAS TO CRIPPLE UNIVERSITY FUNDING. Interim President Stanley Ikenberry says that while the state should “resolve its financial crisis immediately,” he sees no “signs of it happening.”  The GEO calls on President Ikenberry and the UI administration to do more to demand the money owed to the U of I, and to publicly join students, workers, and faculty on all three UI campuses in pressuring the legislature to fulfill its financial obligations.

Such public pressure has not been forthcoming from top UI administrators, making it more difficult for Illinois state legislators who favor improved public funding for higher education.

FACT: UNIVERSITY ADMINISTRATORS HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO PUSH FUNDING FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION. The UI administration consistently implies that the current budget shortfall is a new crisis. However, for over a decade the UI administration has consistently failed to resist state cuts in public University funding.

President Ikenberry’s statements in the News-Gazette that the U of I will have to rely primarily on tuition dollars to fund instruction are reflective of several years of UI administration efforts to move to a privatized model of University funding that relies primarily on tuition and corporate funds.  Ikenberry even says that the University of Illinois will have to look to Northwestern and other expensive, inaccessible private schools as future models for UI policy.  This privatized University model is completely contrary to the mission of the University of Illinois as a public, land-grant institution.

By failing to invest in students and workers, the state of Illinois and the University of Illinois administration are ensuring that the residents of Illinois, students, and low paid workers are hardest hit by the state and national economic crisis.

MYTH: A TUITION INCREASE IS NECESSARY TO STOP THE UNIVERSITY FROM SHUTTING DOWN. While Ikenberry claims that up to a 20% tuition increase is necessary to keep the University from shutting down, an independent audit from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) (download the .pdf at uigeo.org/publicity-materials/), the University of Illinois’ financial situation is “solid.”  The money currently owed from the state constitutes a very small portion (less than 1%) of the overall UI budget, and tuition increases, layoffs, and furloughs are not warranted.

According to the audit, the “UI system had approximately 12% of reserves as of June 30, 2008.”  As this is 12% of the TOTAL budget, including “restricted funds” that the UI administration claims cannot be used for instructional expenses, “a reduction in a few months of the state appropriation should easily be handled from current cash reserves,” according to Cary Nelson, AAUP President.

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS BUDGET MYTHS AND FACTS

FACT: ADMINISTRATIVE FAILURE TO ACT LEADS TO MORE PRIVATIZATION AND CORPORATIZATION, UNDERMINING PUBLIC EDUCATION. The GEO believes that the UI administration is using the current cash-flow problem to further the privatization and corporatization of the University, a policy that a recent national poll by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education claims is partially responsible for decreased public interest in state funding for Universities.   (http://www.publicagenda.org/pages/squeeze-play-2010).

FACT: INVESTING IN THE UNIVERSITY, ITS WORKERS AND STUDENTS, ACTUALLY GENERATES A SURPLUS.  INSTEAD, UNIVERSITY POLICIES SIGNAL A PUSH TOWARD PRIVATIZATION.

For example, graduate teaching assistants– even after their wages are subtracted– actually generate tuition dollar surpluses for the University for every course taught.  Yet a memo circulated by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to LAS department heads encouraged departments to further reduce the “cost per instructional unit” by hiring adjuncts to teach large classes rather than graduate instructors to teach small ones.

This directive not only ignores the goal of educational excellence, but also focuses on cutting a sector that is crucial to the University’s mission, when much larger economies could be made by curtailing spiraling administrative costs.

The response to the budget shortfall must not be to increase tuition, to fire and furlough workers and faculty, and to force colleges and departments into larger classes with fewer instructors.

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