A new senate bill could free up some much-needed state aid for low-income college students in Illinois.
State Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, introduced legislation Tuesday that would immediately repay universities and community colleges that funded the Monetary Award Program through fall 2015. Senate Bill 2226 would release $168 million in state aid for the unfunded program.
“Illinois needs to invest in the higher education of its residents in order to get back to full strength,” McGuire said in a press release. “Failing to provide financial aid for which 130,000 students qualified threatens those students, the schools they attend and the future of the state.”
SIU President Randy Dunn announced the university would continue to fund MAP grants through the spring during a meeting with SIUC students in November, should the state budget impasse continue through the calendar year.
But many colleges and universities in the state have announced they cannot afford to do the same.
John Charles, SIU’s executive director for governmental and public affairs, said the proposed bill gets the university “halfway there” in terms of funding MAP.
More than a third of SIUC’s 17,292 students were eligible for MAP grants in the fall, and the university covered a $5.9 million tab with the expectation of reimbursement from the state.
But funding the program through spring semester is still in limbo until legislators draft another bill, Charles said.
“This would at least give us half of our MAP grant funding for the year,” Charles said of the bill. “And we very much appreciate that.”
Legislation to increase MAP to $397 million passed the Illinois House in May but was vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner. The senate passed a bill in August to meet the governor’s request to reduce spending for the program to $373 million and is awaiting House approval.
But funding for MAP is just a drop in the bucket considering the $1.9 billion state legislators set aside for Illinois’ university system in March. Universities and colleges in Illinois have not received a penny from the state since the governor vetoed an unbalanced spending plan passed by the Illinois House and Senate for fiscal year 2016.
The amendatory veto by the governor claimed the Illinois General Assembly violated state constitution by passing a budget $4 billion in the red.
Richard Goldberg, Rauner’s deputy chief of staff for legislative affairs, gave members of the Illinois Senate a memo that criticized public universities for overspending, raising tuition and paying salaries to lobbyists, The Associated Press reported Thursday.
In response to Rauner’s message concerning public universities in the state, Charles said: “We’re very glad that the governor’s legislative staff is finally paying attention to the fact that higher ed hasn’t gotten any funding in [fiscal year 2016] as we approach our eighth month without state budget and we have students who have not received their MAP grants.”
Bill Lukitsch can be contacted at [email protected] or (618) 536-3329.