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Higher Education

  • mcguire maprallyAcross the country, tuition costs and students loans are soaring, but in Illinois, the problem has been further compounded by another issue. Students who receive financial aid from the state’s Monetary Award Program remain in limbo because the governor vetoed their funding.

    Public colleges and universities have been fronting the costs to cover the MAP grants through the fall semester, but have indicated that generous gesture simply cannot continue. Last year, MAP grants assisted over 136,000 students in affording college.

    Senator Pat McGuire (D-Joliet) is the chairman of the Higher Education Committee, and has been a vocal advocate for these students.

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  • cunningham bkgrd chksCHICAGO – In an effort to reduce administrative costs and help hold the line on college tuition growth, State Senator Bill Cunningham (D-18) has proposed a series of reforms in how higher education executives in Illinois are compensated. These reforms were sparked by a report revealing inappropriate practices, including the recent scandals at the College of DuPage.

    “Institutions of higher learning in our state have been plagued by recent controversies involving mismanagement or misconduct by college presidents, which cost taxpayers and tuition-payers millions of dollars in legal fees and severance payouts," Cunningham said. "We need to reform our laws to ensure more transparency and accountability in the administration of our public colleges and universities."

    Legislation proposed by the senator would create more transparency in the hiring and contracting process for executives by requiring the terms of contracts to be publicly disclosed before being approved. Legislation also would make it so that perks that are often given to university presidents, such as car and housing allowances, could not count as pensionable income.

    “Illinois has several excellent institutions of higher learning," Cunningham said. "It's disappointing that we need to focus on these negative issues. But it is necessary that we learn from past transgressions and reform our laws to ensure that Illinois colleges and universities are above board in all of their financial practices.”

    Cunningham’s reform package, Senate Bills 2155-2159 are currently in the State Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education Executive Compensation, which is chaired by Senator Cunningham.

  • mulroe highed map groupSPRINGFIELD – Students from across the state visited the state capitol building today to encourage legislators to fully fund the higher education and MAP Grant line items for the FY16 budget. Victoria Prince is a University of Illinois student from Chicago. As a MAP Grant recipient, she was one of the students on hand today at the capitol to explain her need for MAP grants.

    “My freshman year I received almost $5,000 from the MAP Grant,” Prince said. “It really helped me afford school and I don’t think I would have selected to stay in state without it. I know a lot of stories about how tuition out of state is better just because they have more financial aid than Illinois is currently providing; so that’s why I think higher education is so important, to keep a lot of students in Illinois and keep up Illinois’ economy.”

    State colleges and universities have been fronting the bill for MAP Grants for the first semester of the school year, but college and university presidents have advised the General Assembly that their facilities can no longer shoulder that burden as they move into the spring semester.

    Senator John Mulroe (D-Chicago) was an early advocate for higher education funding in the spring.

    “As the son of an immigrant, I understand first-hand how difficult it is to pay for higher education,” Mulroe said. “Unfortunately, times have changed and you simply cannot work and go to college anymore. These kids are working two to three jobs on top of the financial aid they receive. We can’t break our promise to them.”

    The General Assembly passed HB 4146, but the measure was vetoed by the governor. A second funding measure, SB2043 remains in the House.

  • hutch hastings govstateTINLEY PARK- As lawmakers returned to Springfield for Tuesday’s session, so did bus loads of college students. They came to the capital to discuss their concerns over the cuts to higher education that the governor has proposed. The dramatic cuts to state universities and MAP grants could cause tuition rates and class sizes to rise, as well as force colleges to cut staff and administrative positions.  

    State Senator Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park) had the opportunity to speak with students from Governor’s State University, located near the 19th district.

    “Governor’s State is an incredible university that prides itself on offering affordable tuition. If these cuts are implemented that would severely limit their ability to continue offering it,” Hastings said. “Cutting funding to universities would absolutely devastate the higher education system in Illinois.”

    This year, Senator Hastings and his colleagues voted multiple times to fund Illinois universities and MAP grants, but all of these measures failed to be signed into law.

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  • pvp hied mapSPRINGFIELD — Today, State Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) met with students from the University of Illinois-Chicago, who were participating in Illinois Public University Student Lobby Day. Senator Van Pelt and students discussed various higher education funding issues.

    Senator Van Pelt, earlier this summer, was one of 37 Senators who voted to pass Senate Bill 2043, appropriating $373 million in general revenue funds for MAP grants. The bill is currently in House Rules Committee.

    “MAP grant funding is absolutely essential for students throughout state, who may not be able to fully fund their education,” Senator Van Pelt said. “I have and will continue to support MAP grant funding, as well as other alternatives to assist with funding, such as The American Opportunity Tax Credit and The Lifetime Learning Credit.”

    Earlier this year, Senator Van Pelt joined US Congressman Danny K. Davis (D) in encouraging current and future students to look into a variety of tax break options available to ease the financial burden of higher education. Together they launched #TaxBreaks4Students campaign, designed to highlight the programs available to those paying for higher education.

  • Final Senate higher education hearing warns of students lost in limbo

    hi ed hrngs eiuCHARLESTON — As students prepare to register for their spring classes, they are unsure what the absence of a state higher education budget means for them.

    When Eastern Illinois University’ student government board assembled at the start of the school year, they didn’t think they would have to worry about the state’s budget. Their main concern was finding innovative ways to get other students involved in on-campus organizations.

    Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Pat McGuire (D-Crest Hill) assembled the panel for its final scheduled hearing to hear from students like Jose Durbin, who are the future of higher education and our state government: He wants to be a state senator one day.

    Durbin has already started looking at private loans that will end up being more expensive for him in the long run.

    “Our public higher education institutions prepare our students to be the future leaders of Illinois,” said Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign). “It’s heartbreaking to hear students’ struggles as they work toward meeting their tuition costs and calculating budgets for their student organizations. We need to put a budget in place to guarantee students have the services and support they need to be successful.”

    Every year, thousands of Illinois students take advantage of this vital state funding to help pay for the opportunity to receive a higher education. The average student with a MAP grant receives about $2,700 to help pay for tuition. As college costs continue to skyrocket in Illinois, these grants are vital to the sustainability of many students’ college careers.

    Twenty percent — about 2,600 — of students at EIU rely on state assistance to cover their tuition expenses.

    "We tell students from kindergarten on to study hard and get good grades so they can go to college," McGuire said. "We're hypocrites if we then allow the governor to pull the financial aid rug out from under them."

    The Senate did pass funding for the state’s financial student assistance program, the Monetary Award Program (MAP). However, the House has yet to approve the funding.

  • Final Senate higher education hearing warns of students lost in limbo

    hi ed hrngs eiuCHARLESTON — As students prepare to register for their spring classes, they are unsure what the absence of a state higher education budget means for them.

    When Eastern Illinois University’ student government board assembled at the start of the school year, they didn’t think they would have to worry about the state’s budget. Their main concern was finding innovative ways to get other students involved in on-campus organizations.

    Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Pat McGuire (D-Crest Hill) assembled the panel for its final scheduled hearing to hear from students like Jose Durbin, who are the future of higher education and our state government: He wants to be a state senator one day.

    Durbin has already started looking at private loans that will end up being more expensive for him in the long run.

    “Our public higher education institutions prepare our students to be the future leaders of Illinois,” said Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign). “It’s heartbreaking to hear students’ struggles as they work toward meeting their tuition costs and calculating budgets for their student organizations. We need to put a budget in place to guarantee students have the services and support they need to be successful.”

    Every year, thousands of Illinois students take advantage of this vital state funding to help pay for the opportunity to receive a higher education. The average student with a MAP grant receives about $2,700 to help pay for tuition. As college costs continue to skyrocket in Illinois, these grants are vital to the sustainability of many students’ college careers.

    Twenty percent — about 2,600 — of students at EIU rely on state assistance to cover their tuition expenses.

    "We tell students from kindergarten on to study hard and get good grades so they can go to college," McGuire said. "We're hypocrites if we then allow the governor to pull the financial aid rug out from under them."

    The Senate did pass funding for the state’s financial student assistance program, the Monetary Award Program (MAP). However, the House has yet to approve the funding.

  • so il hi ed hearingCARTERVILLE- Illinois higher education institutions are still running despite the absence of a higher education budget.

    John A. Logan Community College, like many state universities and community colleges, is absorbing costs up front to allow students to return to school this fall. However, this may force colleges and universities to cut vital services.

    Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Pat McGuire (D-Crest Hill) assembled the panel at John A. Logan to hear from community college representatives like Vice President for Business Services Brad McCormick, who is struggling to finance on-campus child care assistance and tutoring services for students.

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    As Illinois students begin preparing for mid-terms, Chairman Pat McGuire (D-Crest Hill) assembled the Senate’s Higher Education Committee at Joliet Junior College to hear from students, parents and state community colleges and universities on the impact the current budget impasse is having on higher education in Illinois.

    “Time's a'wastin' - first semester already has started. Governor Rauner, get on board,” McGuire said. “Support MAP and higher education funding so Illinois high school graduates and returning adults can earn the knowledge and skills needed in today's economy to make our state strong again.”

  • new laws 0915With this year’s main session of the General Assembly over, Illinois has several new laws that could make a significant impact on your daily life.

    If you have kids, enjoy after-work cocktails or are a veteran, you should definitely check out our list of the most important and interesting new laws that took effect this summer.

  • jones map fedEvery year, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission helps more than 125,000 students throughout Illinois advance their career dreams by helping them pay for college. The Monetary Award Program is designed to help eligible students who may not have enough money to pay for higher education go to a higher education institution, as long as they meet guidelines outlined by the grant. Without Governor Rauner’s approval, students statewide won’t be able to afford college tuition and other associated costs.

    State Senator Emil Jones III’s (D-Chicago) district houses Chicago State University and he believes Governor Rauner needs to make the appropriation of state funds to the grant program a priority.

    “Not every family has the means to send their child to school,” Jones said. “And there are many students who have the ability to go to college, receive a degree and be prepared to enter the workforce. We must ensure we give these students who are looking for a hand up and not a hand out an opportunity to reach their goals and contribute back to our communities. Funding this program is a no-brainer. If we want a vibrant economy, we need a workforce prepared for the challenges of tomorrow. Funding this program ensures economic vitality in the future.”

    Senator Jones also voted in favor of Senate Bill 2042, which allows $5.4 billion, mostly in federal “pass-through” funds, to be appropriated. Illinois receives these funds through the federal government, but aren’t able to spend them unless lawmakers give the state the authority to spend it.

    The federal pass-through will fund programs for mental health, disability services, meals for homebound seniors, job training and LIHEAP.

    Senator Jones offered the following comment:

    “Providing our most vulnerable citizens with the resources they need to have quality living conditions is one of the greatest purposes of government,” Jones said. “We put programs in place to help people who are in the most need. Providing spend authority for federal money is responsible and by doing so, we put people before political agendas.”

  • Senate Democrats invest in middle-class families

  • mapgrant moneySPRINGFIELD — State Sens. Linda Holmes and Melinda Bush issued the following statements on their support of legislation dealing with social services and higher education grant funding.

    Holmes and Bush voted in favor of House Bill 2482, which would maintain the current threshold individuals must meet in order to qualify for social services like in-home elder care. Gov. Rauner proposed increasing the threshold, which would disqualify thousands of applicants.

    “We are not a state that denies care to the elderly and the sick by claiming they are magically no longer in need,” Holmes said. “Services like the Community Cares Program, which helps seniors continue to live in their homes, actually save the state money down the road. Kicking people off of these services is the wrong thing to do for so many reasons.”

    “I oppose taking such a callous approach to finances,” Bush said. “By making it harder to qualify for social services, the governor is attacking an important social safety net for a vulnerable population, all for cuts that we know will cost us more in the foreseeable future.”

    Bush and Holmes also voted in favor of MAP grant funding at the same level proposed by Gov. Rauner, which would constitute a 2.25 percent increase over the previous year. The governor vetoed an earlier spending plan that included a higher level of funding.

    “For families sending their proud high school graduates off to college this month, these grants are absolutely crucial,” Holmes said. “We’re meeting Governor Rauner halfway by adopting funding at these levels. Today I took action to ensure the grants are there for the middle class families whose students have worked hard to get into college.”

    “Governor Rauner made the right call when he proposed an increase to these grants, and the wrong one when he held these funds hostage during this budget process,” Bush said. “Though I would have preferred to fund them at the higher level the Senate approved earlier, it is more important that they are released to the families whose students need them to get a quality education.”

  • mapgrant moneySPRINGFIELD- As college students begin to head back to campus, State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) passed legislation to fund state college assistance grants.

    Under Senate Bill 2043, the Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants will continue to make college an option for students across Illinois.  This state assistance provides need-based aid to help pay for tuition and fee costs to help eliminate excessive college loan debt.

    “Illinois students shouldn’t be discouraged from attending one of our public universities or community colleges due to financial need,” Bennett said. “The legislation we passed today will help more students obtain a college education without further jeopardizing their financial health.  

    The Illinois Student Assistance Commission estimates that under Senate Bill 2043, that 125,000 to 130,000 eligible students will be approved for MAP grant assistance.  

    “We need an educated workforce to continue to grow our economy,” said Bennett. “The investments we make in education will provide Illinois with a well-trained and competitive workforce.”

    Last year, 6,697 students, approximately 25 percent of undergraduates at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana received MAP grant assistance.

    Senate Bill 2043 passed the Senate 37-0-14 and now moves to the House for consideration.

  • map grant mrSPRINGFIELD – Next week the Illinois State Senate plans to take up funding for financial aid for qualified college students. The Monetary Assistance Program (MAP) provides needy Illinois students with funding to pay for college tuition.  This funding is currently being held up as a result of the budget impasse.

    “In the coming weeks students will be returning to college campuses,” said State Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton). “Many of these students rely on MAP grants for their college tuition. It is important we invest in the future of our state and make sure students have the opportunity to better themselves. That is why I am urging lawmakers to vote in favor of this measure."

    In May, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation specifically aimed to help college students. Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the plan thereby taking away college funding for students who rely on state assistance.

    Illinois Senate Democrats have issued an online petition urging students and stakeholders to support MAP grant funding on their website: www.IllinoisSenateDemocrats.com.

    The Senate expects to take up the legislation on Wednesday, August 19.

  • map grant mrCHAMPAIGN- As college students begin to head back to campus, State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) is circulating a petition to urge Illinois lawmakers to pass funding for an important state aid program.

    “I urge legislators to put politics aside. These students are real people with real lives. We cannot afford to jeopardize their futures,” said Bennett.

    Monetary Award Program (MAP grants) cannot be given to students until there is a state budget. More than 100,000 students across Illinois rely on MAP grants to afford higher education.

    Some schools are unable to absorb the tuition cost while the budget impasse continues and are asking students to pay partial fees upfront as they wait for the budget impasse to end. Bennett doesn’t want students discouraged from returning to campus due the lack of promised financial aid.

    “If these students could afford to absorb tuition costs and fees, they wouldn’t have qualified for state assistance in the first place,” said Bennett. “College affordability is a defining component in our state’s policies. We need to be working toward giving our young people the tools to graduate with success, not forcing them to miss out on valuable opportunities.”

    Lawmakers will return to Springfield to take up legislative action on Wed., Aug. 19. Bennett will work with lawmakers to authorize funding for MAP grants.

  • map grant mrSPRINGFIELD - 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.

  • mapgrant moneySPRINGFIELD — Thousands of college students and their families are caught in a political power play that State Senator Daniel Biss (D – Evanston) hopes to at least partially resolve next week at the Capitol.

    At issue is the state’s primary student aid program – the Monetary Award Program (MAP). More than 100,000 students rely on MAP grants to help pay for school, but Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the MAP grant budget. This left hanging both the students who rely on them and the schools they attend even as a new academic year begins.

    Biss is among the Senate Democrats pushing to approve a MAP grant budget when the Illinois Senate convenes Wednesday. The Monetary Award Program is the state’s largest need-based grant program to help pay for college. As long as these grants aren’t funded, the economic futures of hundreds of thousands of middle-class and disadvantaged students are at risk.

    “If we are unwilling to come together and sincerely seek to resolve our budget impasse in a fair and sustainable way, what kind of example are we setting for Illinois students?” Biss said. “Surely, we can all get behind a solution that simply seeks to help students realize their potential and support our state’s economic future.”

    The funding proposal would mirror what Rauner recommended in his budget plan. He recommended spending $373.3 million on student financial aid through MAP. The MAP budget he vetoed contained an additional $24 million.

    “Our state’s greatest asset is the talent and potential of so many students from all backgrounds. To squander this potential by not giving a hand up to students in need would be disgraceful,” Biss said.

    The legislation is SB 2043.