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Local News

Joliet's McGuire proposes state grant reimbursement bill

Bill would cover college spending on financial aid grants

JOLIET – A Joliet state lawmaker is seeking to reimburse colleges and universities that fronted $168 million to help students pay for classes last fall because their grant funding is tied up in state budget disputes.

State Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, filed Senate Bill 2226 on Wednesday, which would appropriate $168 million to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission from the General Revenue Fund for grant awards to students eligible for the Monetary Award Program.

The bill would cover money fronted by institutions last fall semester.

The legislation represents the third attempt to provide state funding for MAP, McGuire said. House Bill 4146 proposed appropriations of about $397 million before Rauner vetoed it. Senate Bill 2043 had its second reading Nov. 10 in the House.

McGuire said Rauner has shown his appreciation for preschool and K-12 education. 

“[This] will give him a chance to show his appreciation for post-secondary education,” he said.

MAP provides state grants to students in MAP-approved schools who demonstrate a financial need. The funds do not need to be repaid.

A recent survey from ISAC showed that out of 84 colleges and universities, 41 schools reported they would not carry the MAP load for students once more this spring and about a dozen more haven’t decided.

Last fall semester, Joliet Junior College applied $553,000 toward MAP grant students and it has applied $470,000 so far for the spring. 

JJC Spokeswoman Kelly Rohder said college officials are happy to hear the news of McGuire’s bill and thankful the Senate Higher Education Committee – which McGuire chairs – took testimonies during a hearing at JJC on MAP seriously.

“We think this is a definite step in the right direction,” she said.

State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said she supports MAP grants, as it is important for students and families to afford college, but opposes the approach of approving legislation for funding. 

“This piecemeal approach to paying our expenses is not healthy for local municipalities, for families, it’s not healthy for the state. That’s why it’s important we get a budget compromise,” she said. 

State Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, had similar criticism of McGuire’s proposal.

She also said universities need to tighten their own belts before receiving state aid, citing a Wednesday memo from Rauner’s office that was critical of public university spending. 

According to the memo, Illinois public universities raised tuition rates by more than 200 percent in the past 14 years and six of them employ eight lobbying firms to lobby the state. 

“Somebody needs to pay attention to how [universities] are paying taxpayer money. … Because it’s not going to students and it’s not going to teachers,” McDermed said.

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