SPRINGFIELD - Despite the $1.7 billion deficit the state is faced with, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich held the line on Illinois community colleges operations funding, leaving Fiscal Year 2005 funding at the same level as the current year. Base Operating Grants represent the most flexible funds for the colleges and they can be applied to areas of greatest need by each college.
“With enrollments at all-time highs, I think the Governor recognized the role of community colleges in the state’s economic development and the need to fund the colleges to meet the demand of those seeking to retrain themselves for the job market and those traditional college students seeking a more accessible way to begin their college careers,” said Geoffrey Obrzut, President and CEO of the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB).
Consistent with this focus on economic development, the Governor’s budget provided an increase of $1.06 million over what the ICCB had requested in dedicated Workforce Development Grants. These workforce grants are used by the community colleges to help local businesses and industries in their districts with various training and business consultation needs.
“Workforce training and development are a cornerstone of the community college mission,” said Obrzut. “But in another tough budget year, the ICCB had requested a reduction in the workforce line item of its own budget. The Governor has seen fit to increase our request by a significant amount, and we appreciate his confidence in our community colleges to make the best use of that money.”
Also included in the Governor’s budget was a second year of funding to offset the impact of a new Base Operation grant formula the Community College system adopted last year. The FY05 budget provides $5.5 million in funding for this transitional assistance. This will help ensure that community colleges have time to transition into the new funding formula without loss of services to students.
ICCB manages the state’s Adult Education programs. As part of that focus, the Governor is proposing to move the oversight of the GED testing program to ICCB. It is currently housed at the Illinois State Board of Education. This will bring all components of the adult education system under the auspices of the ICCB, ensuring better coordination between programs that prepare students for the GED and those that administer the tests and must report the results. The Regional Offices of Education will continue to administer the test locally.
The ICCB is the coordinating agency for the 48 Illinois community colleges. The state’s community colleges serve a million Illinois residents a year in academic, occupational, and personal growth programs as well as those who receive training with various job skills enhancement courses through employee-employer training programs. The ICCB also administers the Adult Education and Family Literacy programs in Illinois.