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July 30, 2006

Governor Blagojevich signs legislation to make college more affordable for middle class families
Fiscal Year 2007 budget to help 225,000 college students pay for college

SKOKIE – Joined by students, higher education leaders and elected officials at National-Louis University in suburban Skokie, Gov. Blagojevich today signed Senate Bill 2225, legislation that creates the first grant program ever in Illinois specifically targeted at helping middle class families pay for college.  MAP Plus provides $500 grants to college sophomores, juniors and seniors from families with incomes below $200,000.  The Fiscal Year 2007 budget also includes increased funding for the existing MAP program, which serves students from lower income families.  In total, 225,000 students will benefit from the creation of MAP Plus and the additional funding for MAP. 
“MAP Plus is the first grant program ever in Illinois specifically designed to help middle class families afford the high cost of college. Imagine if you’re a parent working hard, trying and struggling to afford to send your child to college.  Five-hundred dollars a year makes a difference,” said Governor Blagojevich.
SB 2225, sponsored by Sen. Edward Maloney (D-Chicago) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-Orland Park), created the new MAP Plus program.  MAP Plus will provide a $500 per student grant for sophomores, juniors and seniors from families with incomes less than $200,000 who attend college in Illinois, but did not receive MAP. In total, 225,000 students will benefit from the creation of MAP Plus and the additional funding for MAP.  Funding for the MAP program this year is increased by $34.4 million –– increasing grants to help more students and their parents afford college. The FY07 budget also includes $34.4 million for the MAP Plus program 
“We have made higher education more accessible for students throughout the State of Illinois,” said Senator Maloney. “We had to address the affordability issue and with the increased money going to MAP and this new MAP-Plus program this is definitely going to be a real plus for virtually all students in the State of Illinois, because it is not going to be just the poorer students, but this will help the middle class families as well.”
“The signing of this legislation opens up the possibility of much needed assistance to thousands of families across Illinois. I look forward to continue working with Governor Blagojevich in his efforts to assist our middle class families as they pursue their dreams of a college education,” said Rep. McCarthy.
The average annual cost of tuition and fees to attend a public university in Illinois is over $7,000 (more than doubling in the past 10 years), and the average cost for private colleges is more than $20,000, according to Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) data.  Even 2-year community colleges in Illinois have experienced an 80 percent hike, and now average $2,465 in tuition and fees. Nationally, the average yearly cost in tuition and fees for public universities is $9,877, and $26,025 for private universities, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Studies show a continuing gap between what working families can afford and the cost of an undergraduate’s education.  Yet a college-educated workforce remains critical for the state’s economic future.  Estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau show that lifetime earnings are over $900,000 greater for a person with a bachelor’s degree versus a high school graduate.
“The Illinois Board of Higher Education is dedicated to making college more affordable to students of all ages.  It clearly is important to ensuring Illinois has the qualified workforce for a bright economic future.  While we continue to work to enhance needs-based financial aid for low-income students, the debt load for students from middle-income families has become a crushing burden,” said Judy Erwin, Executive Director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. “The Governor’s innovative MAP Plus initiative will go a long way in making college more affordable and reducing the heavy debt from student loans.”
Funding for MAP Plus will come from restructuring or selling part of the student loan portfolio now held by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC).  MAP Plus has been approved only for the upcoming school year, after which ISAC - by statutory requirement - will recommend whether MAP Plus should continue.
In a letter to Illinois college financial assistance officers last week, ISAC Chairman Donald McNeil assured administrators that MAP Plus funding will be in place for the 2006-2007 school year and the restructuring will not negatively impact ISAC.
“Rest assured that any reorganization, restructuring or other revenue-generating transactions approved by the Commission will not adversely affect ISAC’s scholarship and grant administration, student outreach activities or ability to provide exceptional student loan services,” said Chairman McNeil.
MAP Plus was inspired by the unparalleled success of Illinois’ Monetary Award Program, which has been providing assistance to college students from lower-income families since 1967.  MAP Plus - like MAP - will be administered by ISAC, which also administers the Illinois Veterans Grant Program, Silas Purnell Illinois Incentive for Access Program, teacher scholarship programs and others.
Created in 1957 by the Illinois General Assembly, ISAC - originally the Illinois State Scholarship Commission - has become the State’s centralized provider of financial assistance aimed at helping students and families access postsecondary education.  In the past half-century, millions of Illinois families have benefited from government financial assistance programs administered by ISAC. 
In 2005 alone, ISAC awarded more than $400 million in scholarship and grant aid to more than 210,000 college students and an additional $1.1 billion to 250,000 borrowers through various student loan programs. Further, countless high school students received free financial aid counseling through ISAC’s innovative “CollegeZone” website and other outreach programs. 
The FY07 budget also includes a $48 million general funds increase for higher education.  Universities will receive more than $18 million to attract and retain the best faculty and staff, and community college grants will increase by almost $7 million. 


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