031016CM0111CLJOLIET — Thursday’s disclosure that the number of Illinois students applying for Monetary Award Program grants to help pay for college is down 13 percent is nothing but bad news for Illinois, according to State Senator Pat McGuire (D-Joliet).

“College graduates earn more, pay more in taxes, are healthier, and are more active in civic affairs,” said McGuire, chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee. “Yet Illinois is discouraging its own high school graduates from continuing their education by failing to fund the need-based financial aid program that has helped millions of Illinois residents get ahead for almost 50 years.”

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission, which administers MAP, says the 13 percent is a decline from the 320,000 students who applied last year. Approximately 130,000 of those applicants were promised MAP grants. However, the governor last summer vetoed the $397 million in MAP funds authorized by the General Assembly. Most public and private colleges and universities consequently fronted MAP funds to students.

A late April bipartisan measure — Senate Bill 2059 — sent 43 percent of the promised MAP funds to the students' schools, and a month later the General Assembly sent the governor House Bill 4167, authorizing the rest of the $397 million promised. However, the governor has yet to sign HB 4167, and the number of schools able to continue fronting MAP funds to students is declining.

“Students who qualify for MAP qualify because they have low incomes, good grades and ambition,” McGuire said. “How stupid of us to signal to them by funding MAP less than halfway last year and maybe not at all this year that they shouldn't even bother with college.”

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McGuire2014squareJOLIET — As each day without a proper state budget passes, the financial condition of the state’s human services providers grows more and more perilous. Today, State Senator Pat McGuire has urged the governor to sign legislation that will free hundreds of millions of dollars for these beleaguered providers.

“In late April and early May, the General Assembly hit on a winning, bipartisan formula to get sorely needed funds to higher education and human services, the two parts of the current fiscal year budget that are stuck,” McGuire said. “The governor signed the bill for higher ed but so far refuses to sign the bill for human services. For the sake of Illinois’ most vulnerable residents, Gov. Rauner needs to sign Senate Bill 2038 right away.”

Painful decisions have been made by human service providers all across the state, including in the 43rd District. Pam Heavens, executive director for Will-Grundy Center for Independent Living, says the focus must be on those who receive these vital services.

“Due to the budget impasse, Will-Grundy Center for Independent Living was forced to lay off a full-time staff member and institute furlough days. Human service providers are suffering due to the impasse; some may close,” Heavens said. “The never-ending finger pointing must stop. Focus must be on ensuring that the most vulnerable citizens have access to the services that keep them healthy and strong.”

Senate Bill 2038 provides about $700 million in emergency funding to human services providers who contract with the state of Illinois to assist ill seniors, survivors of sexual assault, homeless youth, and persons fighting mental illness and substance abuse. The measure was sent to the governor May 18 after passing the Senate and House with “yes” votes from every Democrat and Republican voting.

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050216CM0431SPRINGFIELD — Legislation that will help high schools in Illinois better prepare their students for the 21st century workforce passed the Senate today.

The measure, called the 2016 Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act, would require districts that participate to develop a model for better college and career preparedness and a curriculum that aligns with that model. State Senator Pat McGuire (D-Joliet) said that a more knowledgeable workforce is vital for Illinois’ future.

“Illinois has made it a priority that by 2025, 60 percent of the adult workforce will have a post-secondary credential, whether that’s a college diploma or an advanced training certificate,” said McGuire, the act’s chief co-sponsor. “That means everyone who graduates from high school must be ready to move ahead by learning more.”

To address that, the legislation requires participating districts to develop “pathways” for students to earn college credit in mathematics. Students would then choose a pathway that aligns with their college or career goals, such as STEM, other technical fields or data analysis. Other provisions in the act include development of industry sector endorsements on diplomas to show that graduates have taken coursework that prepares them for their intended career path and opportunities to earn credit outside of school, such as an internship or work experience.

“Education is becoming like a series of extension ladders,” McGuire said. “Preschool now overlaps with grade school, grade school with high school and high school with college. That’s how our students and our state will continue to climb.”

House Bill 5729, sponsored by State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) passed both chambers unopposed and now awaits the governor’s signature.

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031016CM0079SPRINGFIELD — With nearly the entire academic year passed, thousands of college students in Illinois who rely upon Monetary Award Program grants will finally be made whole, thanks to legislation passed by the Illinois Senate today.

House Bill 4167 authorizes the spending of $227 million for MAP grants for the 2015-16 academic year. When coupled with Senate Bill 2059, which was signed into law last month, the bills represent the original appropriation for MAP in the 2016 budget year. State Senator Pat McGuire (D-Joliet), who has been on the forefront of the fight for MAP funding, was a chief co-sponsor of HB 4167.

“Last week I was at the commencements of Joliet Junior College and Governors State University. Both schools have many students awaiting the full amount of need-based financial aid the state promised them,” said McGuire, chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee. “Passage of HB 4167 gets us two-thirds of the way toward keeping our word to these students. The governor now has the opportunity to take the final step.”

Without a proper higher education budget in place, colleges and universities fronted MAP money to students during the first semester. But a number of schools indicated that they couldn’t continue doing so for the second semester, leaving students to choose whether to go deeper into debt with more student loans or quit school altogether.

“Making almost 130,000 needy college students uncertain if they can continue their education makes Illinois’ future uncertain,” McGuire said. “Let’s wise up, support hard work and ambition, and fully fund MAP grants.”

HB 4167, having passed the House earlier this week, now goes to the governor’s desk.

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