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Emergency funding for universities, students now law

sb2059 signed

A $600 million emergency funding plan for higher education was signed into law Monday, just days after Senate Democrats sent it to the governor's desk. Senate Bill 2059 provides temporary assistance to universities, community colleges and scholarships for low-income students.

Here’s what Senate Democrats are saying about the emergency funding.

"This emergency funding plan is the first step toward stabilizing our public universities," said Assistant Majority Leader Donne Trotter, the bill's co-sponsor. "I am glad the governor is working with us but there's more to be done. College students shouldn't wait for piecemeal solutions. We should keep our economic engine strong by restoring the people's trust in our education system and our state."

“This is a small victory for our higher education system, but it means so much to the students throughout our state who were in jeopardy of losing their futures,” said Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D – Maywood). “We will continue the fight for the programs and services that our most vulnerable populations desperately need, and I’m ready to keep pushing forward.”

“Senate Bill 2059 was absolutely vital to keep our colleges and universities afloat through the summer,” Senator Pat McGuire (D-Joliet) said. “While it isn’t an optimal solution, it does buy us some time to pass a proper budget for 2017 so that this brinksmanship never happens again.

“I’m glad that Governor Rauner acted quickly on this bicameral, bipartisan plan. I’m cautiously optimistic that we can channel this spirit to forge next year’s spending plan together and without the acrimony that has characterized the past year.”

"Access to higher education is the key to propelling our state forward," said State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago). "The best way to uplift our youth and give them the opportunities we had is by protecting their scholarships and keep colleges open."

“This investment in Illinois’ future shows what the governor and legislative leaders can accomplish when they drop the partisan rhetoric and focus on the real issues facing our state,” said Senator Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines). “While it is far from perfect, these funds provide temporary relief to students and colleges in Illinois, including Harper College.”

“The governor and legislative leaders must now come together to put together a full plan to provide stability for Illinois’ economic future,” Murphy said.

“Students should have the opportunity to pursue higher education without having to worry about if their institution will be around when it’s time to graduate,” said Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago). “This is a key step for our state. Students are one of the state’s most vulnerable populations. Our work is not done—let’s now pass a budget that fully funds MAP, higher education and summer youth programs.”

“It’s a relief to send our universities some of the funding they need in a bipartisan effort, showing that we can work together through tough issues to help stabilize education and the economy in Illinois,” State Senator Napoleon Harris (D-Harvey) said. “This is a step in the right direction, and more importantly, a step closer to implementing a full budget. We can now work on funding social services, which in many communities are just as important as accessibility to higher education.”

Under the new law, public universities will split $356 million and $74 million will go to community colleges. The MAP grant program will receive $170 million, approximately 43 percent of an originally proposed budget.

However, the funding in this deal is, on average, only 30 percent of what universities said they needed and what Democrats approved last year only to have Governor Rauner veto the funding. That veto left schools and students with zero support from the state as a budget impasse dragged on for nearly 11 months.

As a result, schools have cut programs, laid off workers and students are at risk of dropping out because they don’t know if they’ll get the financial aid the state promised.

“It is encouraging that after months of unproductive partisan rhetoric, the governor, legislative leaders and lawmakers were able to come together to find a solution to allow Rock Valley College to avoid further layoffs,” Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) said. “This proposal is far from perfect, but it is finally a good first step at providing much-needed stability for our state.”

“I’m grateful that the governor has signed the legislature’s bipartisan proposal that will keep state universities open and provide grants to students who need help affording college,” Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) said. “But there is more work to do moving forward. We need a long-term solution that protects our students and universities from being held hostage by the impasse in Springfield. I’m also hoping that the governor and legislature will work in a bipartisan fashion to get a human services budget enacted that allows social service agencies to keep their doors open.

“Last week’s compromise funding plan will keep the doors open at Illinois’ colleges and universities,” said Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights). “It will allow students to receive their vital MAP grant funding. It will instill trust in the graduating high school student who wants to attend Governors’ State or Chicago State but was concerned about the lack of state funding. While our budget impasse is by no means over, a big step has been taken. We must continue our work, building off this moment of success and ensure our social service agencies receive the same kind of attention as our students.”

With an emergency plan in place for now, Senate Democrats are hoping to reach a bipartisan compromise on not only a broader higher education budget, but also spending on social service businesses that care for people on behalf of the state.

The Illinois Senate last week advanced legislation that would also free up millions of dollars to pay those social service businesses, some of which haven’t been paid for months and have been closing their doors, laying off employees and turning away those in need.