12 Percent Increase In State Higher Education Funding Goes To Pensions

Ann McClure's picture
Thursday, January 26, 2012

llinois’ 12 percent increase in higher education spending this year isn’t going to benefit students. Instead, the additional funding for fiscal 2012 is going into the State Universities Retirement System (SURS) to address its underfunded pension program.

“These SURS appropriations do not go to individual institutions or agencies and are not available to be used for educational purposes,” according to the footnote in a study released Jan. 23 by Illinois State University (ISU).

SURS, which is responsible for the pensions of the state’s university employees, is facing an unfunded liability — how much it owes in benefits compared with how much assets it has on hand — of $17.2 billion, according to its 2011 annual report.

Illinois has a total stated unfunded pension liability of $85 billion, but a 2009 study by the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management puts the figure as high as $219.1 billion. The study didn’t specify how much it estimates SURS’ portion to be.

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