Friday, August 14, 2015 02:17 PM
SPRINGFIELD - In an effort to break the impasse over funding for financial aid for qualified college students, Illinois Senate Democrats announced Friday they intend to take up a student aid budget next week.
“The longer the state goes without funding MAP grants, the greater damage to Illinois students, families, colleges and universities. Governor Rauner is risking the economic future of hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans who want to improve themselves and our state,” said Senator Pat McGuire, chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee.
More than 100,000 students return to campuses across Illinois in the coming weeks who rely on the state's Monetary Award Program to afford higher education.
Illinois lawmakers consider student aid so vital that they split the funding out and passed a separate budget specifically to help college students so the issue wouldn't become marred by political fights elsewhere in the state budget.
Rauner, however, vetoed the legislation, wiping out all college aid for students for the coming year. As a result, the state began its budget year July 1 without a full budget plan, forcing colleges and universities to start up a new academic year with no state support and no financial aid for students.
His action leaves thousands of students stranded in limbo. They need the aid to pay for school, while schools generally are continuing to enroll students who rely on the state assistance. The pressure is being felt by schools as they extend the credit line and hope that the state will pay them back in a timely fashion.
That's where the Senate hopes to begin to add some certainty. Despite the earlier attempt to raise MAP funding during the spring session, the decision to compromise in order to ensure these students receive their grants was an easy one.
For those Illinoisans who agree MAP grants must be funded right now, the Senate Democratic Caucus has posted a petition online.
“As these bright young men and women work toward bright futures, we should be allowing them every opportunity to save money while bettering their lives,” McGuire said. ‘We have done yeoman’s work, but our work is not finished.”
The Senate expects to take up the legislation on Wednesday, August 19.