University of Illinois System Federal Issues

The following webpage provides a snapshot of some of the major federal issues that impact the University of Illinois System.

U of I System Federal Priorities

In January 2021, U of I System President Tim Killeen sent a handout to the Illinois Congressional delegation outlining the system's federal priorities for the 117th Congress.


The U of I System welcomes renewed interest in addressing the country's pressing infrastructure needs, including enhancing campus and research infrastructure, which has endured many years of insufficient capital investment and deferred maintenance. The U of I System also urges Congress to increase funding for innovation, education, and economic growth, including regional initiatives such as the Illinois Innovation Network. The U of I System has taken the following steps to advance these priorities. 

  • In November 2021, the U of I System released a summary of President Biden's final infrastructure bill and its direct positive impact on the U of I System. 
  • In September 2021, the U of I System led a letter with Illinois' public universities to the Illinois delegation urging them to double the maximum Pell Grant award to $13,000 and support increasing the award upcoming budget reconciliation legislation. 
  • In July 2021, the U of I System led a letter with Illinois' public universities to the Illinois delegation urging them to double the maximum Pell Grant award to $13,000 and endorse the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities and Association of State Colleges and Universities' proposal for $48 billion to support state investments in university infrastructure. 
  • In July 2021, the U of I System sent a memo to Illinois delegation offices outlining the effects of deferred maintenance backlogs at our three universities. 
  • In May 2021, the U of I System led a letter with Illinois' public universities to the Illinois delegation urging them to address the needs of Illinois' public universities and students as Congress crafts legislation investing in infrastructure and economic growth.


Since March of 2020, the OGR federal relations team has been actively tracking legislative developments surrounding COVID-19 and joining the broader higher education community in advocating for federal support for students and universities.

Leading up to the final agreement on a third emergency supplemental funding bill, U of I System leadership sent a letter to the Illinois congressional delegation urging them to ensure that the emergency package included essential relief for students and institutions of higher education. The U of I System has also since led three letters from Illinois' public universities to the state's congressional delegation asking for continued support and additional federal resources in response to the pandemic. You can view the April 2020 letter here,  the July 2020 letter here, and the January 2021 letter here

Additionally, the U of I System's Illinois Connection program has sent out two Calls to Action (CTA) to alumni, students, faculty, and staff encouraging them to ask their federal legislators to support more funding for higher ed and students. You can view the April CTA here and the July CTA here.

OGR has created a couple of informational handouts with respect to COVID-19:

  • Snapshot of the ways in which the U of I System is working to support students, employees, and communities during the pandemic
  • Overview of 2020 fall semester plans
  • Summary of COVID-19 research impacts and our emergency research relief priorities 
  • Infographic of the fiscal impact of COVID-19 on the U of I System, along with a more detailed summary of the factors impacting the significant costs and revenue losses that we anticipate in the 2020 fall semester
  • Summary of how the U of I System is serving students academically and financially during the COVID-19 pandemic 


As a pre-eminent public research university, the U of I System is a leader in groundbreaking research and discovery. With the support of the federal government, U of I System faculty and students are conducting research that drives innovation and economic growth. At the same time, federal financial aid plays a crucial role in helping to ensure access and affordability to higher education. Accordingly, the U of I System supports robust federal funding for research and higher education. Read more below about the U of I System's major appropriations priorities for Fiscal Year 2020.

Tax Reform

During debate on comprehensive tax reform legislation in 2017—H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA)—the U of I System opposed provisions that would have been damaging to higher education, students, and the U of I System. On December 7, 2017, U of I President Tim Killeen sent a letter to the House and Senate tax reform conferees expressing concerns about those provisions. Read more about how those provisions would make higher education less affordable and undermine the University's ability to promote economic growth and opportunity here.
While the final version of TCJA did not include several of the provisions of greatest concern, it did include some tax changes that negatively impact higher education. The U of I System strongly supports repeal of the new unrelated business income tax (UBIT) on transportation and parking fringe benefits for tax-exempt organizations. Previously, employees from across the U of I System could have money deducted from their paychecks tax-free and it would be applied to parking/transit benefits. Had the U of I System continued to provide this benefit post-TCJA, we would have had to pay an additional estimated 2019 tax bill of around $2.5 million. Instead, approximately 16,000 employees across the U of I System who had received this benefit are no longer able to deduct parking/transit fees pre-tax. The U of I System also supports efforts to fix TCJA's changes to the so-called "kiddie tax" that harms certain low- and middle-income students who rely on scholarship aid to pay for their college education.

Higher Education Act (HEA)

The U of I System is committed to enhancing affordability, completion, innovation, accountability, and transparency. As Congress considers proposals to reauthorize HEA, the U of I System is ensuring that our priorities are heard and taken into consideration. Below are some of our top priorities:
  • Simplifying loan repayment options and eliminating direct loan origination fees.
  • Maintaining mandatory and discretionary funding for the Pell grant, and prioritizing extension of Pell mandatory inflation adjustments. 
  • Maintaining graduate student loan options, strong repayment terms, and loan forgiveness benefits that put graduate and professional studies within reach for all interested students. 
  • Protecting the TRIO and GEAR UP programs, which encourage and support access for low-income and first-generation students to higher education. 

The U of I System's three universities are members of national associations that have developed priorities for HEA reauthorization. View APLU's priorities.

In December 2019, U of I System Executive Vice President Barb Wilson sent a letter to the Illinois Congressional delegation offering input on H.R. 4674, the College Affordability, legislation which would reauthorize the Higher Education Act.
Read more about the importance of federal student aid programs across the U of I System.


The University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System (UI Health) consists of a 495-bed tertiary care hospital, 22 outpatient clinics, Mile Square Health Center facilities, and seven health science colleges. UI Health's top federal priorities include:

  • Maintaining access to affordable healthcare
  • Protecting Medicaid for vulnerable and underserved populations 
  • Protecting Medicare payments to hospital outpatient departments 
  • Protecting vital support for medical education and training to continue to educate the next generation of healthcare professionals. 
  • Maintaining vital resources that help vulnerable patients through the 340B drug pricing program
  • Supporting efforts to delay reductions to disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments

Read more about UI Health and its federal priorities.


The U of I System is working to encourage Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes the DREAM Act and expands visa and citizenship opportunities for STEM graduates. The U of I System has supported efforts to, at a minimum, codify the protections of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) into law.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) 

  • On June 18, 2020, U of I System leadership sent a massmail to students, faculty, and staff after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a bid to end DACA and ruled that proper procedures were not followed in the President’s executive order to rescind the program.
  • On June 3, 2019, President Killeen sent a letter to the Illinois delegation urging support for H.R. 2820, the DREAM Act of 2019, which would ensure that talented undocumented Illinoisans who came to the U.S. as children can continue to make positive contributions to our state and nation.
  • On December 12, 2017, Big Ten chancellors and presidents, including Chancellor Jones, sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging them to take action on the DACA policy and pass a long-term legislative solution as soon as possible to protect Dreamers.
  • In October 2017, the U of I System and its three universities signed onto an American Council on Education (ACE) letter which urged Congress to act, as President Trump requested when he rescinded the DACA policy.
  • In September 2017, Chancellor Jones joined 56 other AAU presidents/chancellors in signing onto a letter urging Congress to act immediately so DACA participants may remain in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

International Students

International students from dozens of countries are integral to the globally connected U of I System. They enrich our three universities and greatly enhance the educational experience for all students. The U of I System is committed to supporting international students and protecting their access to the world-class education and opportunities provided by our three universities.

The U of I System continues to advocate for Congressional oversight of visa delays and rejections at the Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. We have opposed efforts to restrict legal immigration through legal, legislative, and regulatory means, including challenges to Optional Practical Training, which permits foreign students studying in the U.S. to apply for “practical training” with a U.S. employer in a job directly related to their major area of study.

  • The U of I System submitted comments in opposition to a DHS proposed rule to end "duration of status" for F-1 and J-1 visas.
  • The U of I System submitted comments in opposition to DOL's interim final rule that requires employers to pay H1-B visa holders significantly higher wages. 

Protecting International Students During the Pandemic. 

  • Due to extreme backlash, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rescinded its July 6 rule barring international students from studying at universities entirely online during the COVID-19 pandemic. The U of I System worked aggressively to challenge the restrictions and filed amicus briefs supporting litigation filed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Additional Resources