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.

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May 29, 2017 at 11:39AM

Illinois House approves new college grant program

Fewer grads from public medical schools staying in Illinois

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CHICAGO (AP) — The number of medical school graduates who stay in Illinois after graduating from the from the state’s public universities is dropping.

Crain’s Chicago Business (http://bit.ly/2qoCP4i) reports school officials are offering different takes on why, though some point to the state’s two-year budget impasse.

The state has two public university medical schools: Southern Illinois University’s School of Medicine and the University of Illinois College of Medicine. The number of medical graduates from those schools who will remain in Illinois for their residencies has hit a combined all-time low. Private medical schools in the area, which don’t rely on state funding, aren’t seeing the same declines.

Among the students who decided to leave was Matt Soltys, 27, who was raised near Springfield. He earned molecular biology and kinesiology degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and then went to medical school at SIU. But he’ll head the University of Iowa next month to start his internal medicine residency.

“It’s fully hitting me that I’m leaving, and I’m really sad,” he said. “The thought that the budget impasse might affect my medical education and my patients is incredibly frustrating. I wanted to go to an institution that didn’t have those constraints.”

Soltys has a rare vantage point. His father ran the psychiatry department of SIU’s medical school until last year. When he began working there in 2002, the department had six state-funded faculty positions. It now has none. He also has watched two hospitals in Springfield cut funding for internal resident positions.

Jerry Kruse, dean of SIU’s School of Medicine, said the percentage of graduates from his school who complete residencies in Illinois has fallen to 21 percent this year, the lowest in school history. The share has decreased 9 percentage points each year since 2014.

For decades before that, the percentage of the school’s roughly 70 graduates each year who stayed hovered between 40 and 45 percent.

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“Nothing has changed much over this period except the budget impasse and the atmosphere it’s created,” Kruse said. “Young doctors read about it in the papers every day and suddenly there’s a fair amount of uncertainty about the future.”

At the University of Illinois’ College of Medicine, 28 percent of this year’s graduates are staying in the state for residencies, which is down from nearly 37 percent last year. But the school’s dean, Dimitri Azar, notes that the percentage of graduates who remained in Illinois for their residencies was 33 percent in 2015, 41 percent in 2014 and nearly 34 percent in 2013.

Azar said students choose their destinations mostly based on a program’s quality, not the state’s finances.

Information from: CRAIN’S CHICAGO BUSINESS.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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May 29, 2017 at 03:00AM

Fewer grads from public medical schools staying in Illinois

EIU Waives Application Fee

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An Illinois university is taking aggressive measures to recruit new high school students to its campus

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Eastern Illinois University announced Thursday that it will open its application process next week for the fall 2018 semester and waive its $30 application fee for incoming freshman and transfer students until Oct. 2.

 

Josh Norman is the university’s associate vice president for enrollment management. He says research indicates the most successful schools are those that act early in the application process. He says public universities in Indiana that implemented the early application process last year saw success.

 

Eastern Illinois University has seen a slide in enrollment over the last nine years, during which its total number of students has dropped from more than 12,000 in 2007 to more than 7,000 in 2016.

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May 29, 2017 at 01:43AM

EIU Waives Application Fee

Caterpillar turns to students for fresh ideas

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Wearable tech for worker safety. A smart lock to secure equipment. With UIC partnership, the company seeks to tap the creativity of a generation not steeped in Caterpillar’s culture.

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May 27, 2017 at 05:20AM

Caterpillar turns to students for fresh ideas

KCC turns 50 with a bang!

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It was a celebration worthy of a 50 year anniversary.

“The Power of Community” Gala was held at Kankakee Community College last Saturday night to commemorate the accomplishments of five decades of higher education in the area.

Among the evening’s highlights was naming a Fabulous 50 Alumni and recognizing them for their distinguished personal and career accomplishments and exemplary contributions to society.

The honorees included Daily Journal Editor-At-Large Mike Frey, who has worked 35 years for the newspaper and was a youth baseball coach for 24 years.

A former sports reporter turned editor, Frey, through his writing, likely has reached more people in this community than most anyone else.

The “Power of Community” became evident in the speech given by current KCC President John Avendano.

In his remarks Avendano said the hope was to get 400 people to attend the gala. As the date came closer, that number continued to rise daily until it reached a whopping 520 by the final day, showing the support the community has given the school since its inception.

KCC did an outstanding job of transforming the Activities Center gym into a grand banquet room. There was entertainment throughout the evening to go along with delicious food. Thanks to some cooperative weather, the evening was capped off with a fireworks show.

It was an impressive evening that shed a spotlight on just how important the college is to this community.

Speaking of KCC, I got a phone call this weekend from one of the school’s legends.

“Just called to tell you, I’m hanging ’em up,” the voice on the other end of the phone line remarked. “Yeah, yeah it’s time.”

The voice belonged to longtime friend Dennis Clark, the hall of fame softball coach at Kankakee Community College.

Clark is retiring at the end of May from KCC, where he was the director of the school’s fitness center besides being the softball coach.

During his 35-year tenure as coach, Clark compiled an amazing 1,278-371 record, including making the NJCAA national tournament the last 19 years in a row. The Cavaliers won their only national title in 2015 and ended the current season in seventh place nationally.

Similar to his father, Don, before him, Clark has retired to the golf course where he’s working part-time in the Kankakee Elks Country Club pro shop and likely will be fine-tuning his golf game all year long.

Tim Yonke is the Assistant Managing Editor/Weekend Editor at the Daily Journal. He can be reached by calling 815-937-3372 or by email at tyonke@daily-journal.com.

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May 27, 2017 at 04:20AM

KCC turns 50 with a bang!

Voters take out anger on ‘dirt bag’ lawmakers over budget impasse

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SPRINGFIELD — Minutes after state Sen. Toi Hutchinson helped to pass a controversial revenue bill that was met with major Republican resistance, she was inundated with harsh words on her Facebook page.

“No more takes [sic] you dirt bags stop screwing the taxpayers!!!!!!!!” one Facebook user wrote.

“How dare you raise my taxes in this corrupt state. You are ruining people’s lives with your tax and spend ways. I literally hate you,” another person wrote.

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson said she has been getting lots of negative comments on Facebook. | Screenshot

Illinois lawmakers — many of whom face uncertain re-election possibilities next year — are being inundated by comments, insults and suggestions as the clock ticks toward the end of the legislative session amid a historic and politically driven budget impasse that’s left the state in the lurch.

State universities and social service agencies haven’t received funds since Jan. 1 when a partial budget expired.

Lawmakers say constituents are amping up the pressure to stop the bleeding.

“People are so angry. And if they’re not impacted by any of the hard stuff, they zero in on the things that they hate the most. It’s in the midst of the environment that we’re in. It’s the . . . trash comments and the people who try to hijack my Facebook page,” Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, said. “Go to my state Facebook page. Just take a look. It is cruel, absolutely cruel.”

Hutchinson said she receives “constant” calls about MAP college grants. She represents Governors State University, Kankakee Community College and Prairie State College.

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson said she has been getting lots of negative comments on Facebook. | Screenshot

“Not only did the lack of MAP grants wreak havoc over these institutions, but I can’t tell you how many calls I get from people who say ‘I can’t finish this semester,’” Hutchinson said.

In Democratic State Sen. Heather Stean’s 7th district, which encompasses North Side and Northwest Side Chicago neighborhoods, a non-profit plans in June to close some of its facilities that help take care of people with disabilities and mental-health issues if there’s no budget. Another organization which helps to provide shelter for domestic-violence victims called to tell her they’re planning layoffs because they haven’t been able to pay employees all year.

Despite this, Steans says her constituents aren’t paying attention to the barbs being thrown in the political war between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. They just care about the results of it.

“I think people are really frustrated and fed up and to some extent don’t even know what to do with the fact that we don’t have a budget. I don’t think they want to hear about the pointing and blaming. They want us to all step up and do our job,” Steans said.

State Sen. Chris Nybo, R-Westmont, says his constituents are largely calling, emailing and stopping by to complain about their property taxes.

“Nobody is happy. The constituents I represent, they don’t care about scoring political points and so they don’t think it’s good when you make a good argument or when we really stick it to the speaker or the Democrats,” Nybo said. “They just want to see things get done. They’re practical people. . . . I don’t think they’re going to put up with it anymore.”

At baseball, games, hockey games, and when he’s dropping his kids off to school, State Rep. Michael McAuliffe, D- Chicago, said he’s hearing it all.

“They’re telling me how desperate they are, in my suburban areas as well as the city. They’re at wits’ ends. They don’t know what else to do,” McAuliffe said.

Constituents are asking for cuts, not new taxes, McAuliffe says. And many on fixed incomes are worrying if they’ll lose their homes: “Someone who lives in the city of Chicago, last year they saw their water rates go up. They saw a garbage tax. Everywhere you look there’s a new tax. And they’re squeezed all the way to the end.”

State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, says he’s getting an earful, too.

“People don’t understand why we’re not funding social-service agencies and higher education,” McSweeney said, adding he’s receiving calls about the Pioneer Center for Human Services in McHenry County. “There is no good explanation.”

He’s also hearing complaints from school superintendents worried about whether their schools will be properly funded. And they ask some political questions too.

“People ask me, ‘Why hasn’t the governor been meeting with the leaders?’” McSweeney said. “I don’t have a good answer.”

House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang, D-Skokie, says he’s getting calls from parents of high school students asking whether they should send their kids to an Illinois school or out-of-state.

“It’s hard to give them an answer when we treat higher education the way that we do,” Lang said.

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May 26, 2017 at 12:21PM

Voters take out anger on ‘dirt bag’ lawmakers over budget impasse