Illinois Connection Works to Blunt Budget Cuts
Alumni advocates urged to lobby legislators on research, scholarship programs
In 1993, Illinois Connection began as a small group of alumni, students, faculty and supporters who rallied to lobby for state and federal support for the University of Illinois. Today, the grassroots network, sponsored by the University of I Illinois Alumni Association, comprises more than 10,000 advocates. Below is the latest update on Illinois Connection activities, as detailed in a story published in the Winter 2011 issues of the UIAA alumni magazines.
Illinois Connection is amassing its 10,000 members in a vigorous lobbying effort to maintain funding for programs deemed essential to all three campuses of the University of Illinois.
A grass-roots advocacy network of the UI Alumni Association, Illinois Connection has seen its ranks quadruple in the past year, thanks to the alumni, faculty, students and friends who make up its core. The organization is relying on that strength to reach state and federal legislators; at stake are some $666 million in research funds from federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, as well as funding for federal Pell Grants, which this year were awarded to more than 16,000 students at the University campuses.
"Alumni and faculty need to keep reminding their legislators how important these programs are," says Amy Eichhorst, vice president of Illinois Connection. In 2010, for example, the Urbana campus received $I85 million in NSF funding, more than any other educational institution in the U.S. She says these programs remain vulnerable to possible cuts made by legislators looking to reduce deficit spending.
Closer to home, Illinois Connection and its advocates are lobbying the state of Illinois to reimburse the University for $357 million in direct operating expenditures. "That amount is a moving target," she says. "It's growing by the day."
Eichhorst says the state annually pledges approximately S700 million to the University, or about 15 percent of the UI operating budget. State budget shortfalls, however, have put the U of I in line with other organizations seeking payment. "The state can't pay its bills," says Eichhorst. "We're just one of many [of its] vendors."
As 2012 approaches, "we also need to ensure that direct appropriations aren't subject to cuts when legislators return to Springfield in January,” says Eichhorst.
"Those funds have been in decline for the past several years," she says. "For the first time ever, tuition fees are exceeding state appropriations. If we don't get funding from the state, where is it going to come from?"
To learn more about Illinois Connection and its lobbying efforts, visit
Research institutions are powerful economic drivers vital to growth and prosperity. The University of Illinois produces innovative research in every field, which in turn produces new technologies and new products, which in turn create jobs, and jobs drive the economy.
- Christopher Kennedy
Chairman, University of Illinois Board of Trustees
Everyone who loves this University owes Illinois Connection a deep debt of gratitude. Their support is reinforcing our tremendous value to society, and the promise we hold for a better tomorrow.
- Michael J. Hogan
President, University of Illinois