Representing the more than 700,000 living alumni, including nearly 400,000 in the state of Illinois, more than 100 alumni from the University of Illinois System’s three universities convened at the state Capitol on May 10 to meet with legislators for University of Illinois Alumni Day at the Capitol. University System President Tim Killeen, Executive Vice President and Vice President for Academic Affairs Barb Wilson, U of I at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Robert Jones, U of I at Chicago Chancellor Michael Amiridis, U of I at Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch and other University leaders joined alumni in their efforts to meet with members of the General Assembly.

Illinois Connection – the legislative advocacy network of the University of Illinois Alumni Association – and the University’s Office of Governmental Relations coordinate the annual event that brings alumni together to advocate on behalf of the University of Illinois.

As the state has been operating without a budget for nearly two years, the advocacy efforts and support of alumni are needed now more than ever. Higher education is essential to the state’s economic vitality, and the University of Illinois can be part of the solution to the budget crisis. The university has introduced a 5-year program, the Investment, Performance and Accountability Commitment (IPAC) proposal, to provide the university a stable level of financial support. IPAC will hold the University accountable to the state in delivering it missions of affordable education, workforce preparation, innovation and economic development. IPAC would require the university to admit a certain number of Illinois residents, while also creating the Invest in Illinoisans program to provide over $125 million per year in financial aid for Illinois residents.

The University of Illinois provides value to every citizen across the state through its educational, research and outreach programs. As the state’s leading and most comprehensive public higher education system, here are just a few ways the U of I System is providing value:

• U of I Hospital and Health Sciences System is the state’s largest public healthcare provider

• U of I Extension shares expertise and knowledge in every county in the state. More than 1.5 million residents participate in U of I Extension programs each year.

• Many of the world’s greatest discoveries and inventions originated at the University of Illinois, including the first computer-based education system, home air-conditioning systems, the first post-secondary disability support service program in the world, cancer therapeutics and the first treatment for multi-drug resistant HIV.

• More than 80,000 students enroll annually, including students from 101 of 102 counties in the state. More than 80 percent of students are Illinois residents.

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• One of the state’s largest employers, with nearly 30,000 full-time employees

• Annual state economic impact is $14 billion

Speaking to my fellow alumni and friends of the university system: Please get involved in supporting your university. Currently, our state ranks 50th in its support for higher education. Our degrees are only as good as the university’s ranking and reputation. Not only are we helping future students by supporting and advocating for our Alma Mater, but we are also helping increase the value of our degrees. Let’s all do our part to help maintain the reputation and stature of our cherished institution. 

Harring is a board member of Illinois Alumni Association and a graduate of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I resides in Moline. 

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