SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WBBM) — University presidents have begun their annual trek to Springfield to ask lawmakers for money for the next fiscal year.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Alex Degman reports, the presidents of the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University both say they have made a lot of sacrifices over the past few years, including salary and hiring freezes, furloughs, unfilled positions, and cost cutting. Both are asking the state for the same amount as last year.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Alex Degman reports

But lawmakers were still ready, and peppered the presidents with tough financial questions.

State Sen. Chris Lauzen (R-Aurora) asked U of I President Michael Hogan how he can possibly ask for “shared sacrifice” given his $620,000 per year salary, which Lauzen points out is far more than the president of the United States earns.

Hogan said he earns a fair market salary.

“My first teaching salary was $15,000 and it stayed there for four years. My first mortgage was, on average, 12 percent. So it’s not that I’ve ever gotten rich off being an academic person. That’s my answer and I’m not going to apologize for it,” Hogan testified.

The U of I is still owed $500 million this fiscal year by the state.

Meanwhile, SIU President Glenn Poshard defended new construction on campus within the last five years, including a new football stadium. He admits spending at his university has increased, but only because costs have increased – specifically energy costs, which he says have tripled.

Poshard warns that state universities won’t be the affordable option for much longer if they can’t count on reliable public investment.

“Affordability will not be sustained,” Poshard said.

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