Illinois House approves new college grant program

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The Illinois House Monday approved a bill creating a new grant program for college students who maintain at least a “B” average in their studies, but that Republicans said the state cannot afford.

The House voted 65-50 to approve House Bill 1316. It must still be approved by the Senate.

Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, said the bill is intended to encourage students to attend college in Illinois. During the state’s budget stalemate, enrollment at many state universities has dropped as students opt to attend college elsewhere. Once they leave the state, Lang said, the students tend not to return.

“Part of the reason for this bill is to keep our best and brightest here,” Lang said. “We have this brain drain where we’re losing our students. We have thousands of students leaving Illinois because they can’t afford to go to college here. For the sake of our students and the economy, we need to keep them here.”

The bill would provide full-time students at public universities or community colleges a yearly grant of up to $4,000. To qualify, students would need at least a “B” average and must come from families who earn less than $125,000 a year.

Students who receive the grants would have to remain in Illinois for two years after they complete their schooling.

The bill also requires the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to set up a program to buy out the private student loans of eligible participants.

The bill is subject to money appropriated to it by the General Assembly. Lang estimated the cost at $300 million to $400 million. It would not begin until the 2018-19 school year.

Republicans said the bill may be well-intentioned, but the state cannot afford it.

“I think I’m in the land of Oz. Everything is free,” said Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Hinckley. “When you look at our fiscal condition, I doubt we’re ever going to fulfill the image we’re creating and the hope we’re creating for students. Students need all of the things you’re talking about in this bill, but I don’t see how we’re ever going to afford it.”

Rep. Norine Hammond, R-Macomb, said both ISAC and the state Board of Higher Education, which would have roles in administering the bill, are opposed to it.

“If you want to help higher education, then you get a balanced budget that funds higher education,” she said. “We have at least 26 grants programs in the state of Illinois to help students in higher education that we are not funding currently. We need to fund those programs and not bring in new ones.”

Other Republicans complained the bill has no enforcement mechanisms to recover money from students who fail to fulfill their obligations after obtaining grants.

Democrats, though, said the bill will provide another mechanism to help students with college costs.

“Universities are supposed to be accessible to everybody,” said Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago.

— Contact Doug Finke: doug.finke@sj-r.com, 788-1527, http://twitter.com/dougfinkesjr.

This is the vote on House Bill 1316 http://ift.tt/2qAhHaS

 

 

01-All No Sub,02-Pol,03-HL 20,04-Pens 5,12-Coll,HE Blog,HE Coalition

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via State Government News – The State Journal-Register http://ift.tt/1SDtvUk

May 29, 2017 at 11:39AM

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Illinois House approves new college grant program

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