Although they're facing budget cuts, universities and community colleges say they're willing to begin taking on employees' pension costs. The state covers the employers' share of retirement benefits for Illinois' public schools, colleges and universities.
House Speaker Mike Madigan is insistent the state stop.
Talks are ongoing about how that could work for school districts - critics say shifting the cost will lead to higher property taxes.
But the community colleges and public universities have agreed to pay.
"Their options are pretty simple. Either they reduce our appropriation. And that money then gets used to pay those costs. Or we assume those costs and hopefully they will be able to sustain an appropriation that's relatively consistent with what they've done in the past." -University of Illinois President Robert Easter
"We're willing to do whatever it takes because this issue is the single greatest issue threatening our people over the long haul." -Southern Illinois University President Glenn Poshard
The Governor's proposed budget would cut higher education by five percent. University presidents say in exchange for agreeing to take on the pension costs, they hope to see smaller cuts to their budgets.
Illinois Public Radio's Amanda Vinicky contributed to this report.