Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to have Gov. Pritzker and Lt. Gov. Stratton as well as Sen. Rezin and Reps. Yednock and Keicher on campus to talk about the importance of investing in higher education.
Gov. Pritzker's Fiscal Year 2024 proposed budget reaffirms the value of higher education as a public good. With an historic commitment to public universities, it promotes access, affordability and opportunity for all Illinoisans, and acknowledges the critical connections among higher education, social mobility and economic prosperity.
Particularly noteworthy in the governor's proposed budget for higher education is support for student financial aid, with an unprecedented increase in funding for the Monetary Awards Program and a continued commitment to the AIM HIGH Grant Program. These programs eliminate the financial barriers that prevent capable students from pursuing a college education. They are transformative for individuals and communities.
The governor's proposed 7% increase in the state portion of public university funding for operations is the largest proposed increase in two decades, and will positively impact students by allowing universities to invest in the resources they need to be successful academically and socially. Furthermore, this investment will help restore support for institutional operations that was negatively impacted during a prior period of reductions in higher education funding.
Continued funding for the Rebuild Illinois program supports construction initiatives and critical university infrastructure projects, repairs and renovations. This capital funding is badly needed to address life/safety facility issues on campuses and to tackle the deferred maintenance backlog. The human return on these capital expenditures will be substantial. The projects will create jobs that fuel local economies, and the modernized facilities will help attract and retain students, faculty and staff who are critical to Illinois' future workforce.
This investment in higher education is essential for the future of our state. Illinois' 12 public universities serve every region. They enroll more than 183,000 students who will become tomorrow's educators, scientists, artists, engineers, entrepreneurs, medical professionals and leaders in all facets of life. For Illinois cities and towns, such as DeKalb, where we are located, public universities facilitate community engagement, business growth and workforce development to sustain robust economic ecosystems. Our institutions also address complex, real-world challenges through research and innovation to improve society and our world.
Individually and collectively, Illinois public universities represent an enormous state resource that has served past generations with distinction and will benefit many more to come.
Thank you, Gov. Pritzker, for your administration's commitment to public higher education. It is my honor to introduce the 43rd governor of the state of Illinois, JB Pritzker.