With budget, financial relief finally en route to Illinois universities, MAP students

Jul 13, 2017

Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza announced Thursday some relief is finally on the way to cash-strapped public colleges and low-income students who rely on financial aid from the state.

With last week’s override of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget vetoes, the comptroller’s office now has the authority to release more than $695 million in existing higher education funds to state universities, community colleges and some 110,000 students who qualified for Monetary Award Program, or MAP grant funding during the previous academic year.

Of the $523 million Mendoza began issuing Thursday, $160 million will be appropriated to colleges and universities for operational costs, and $327 million will go toward repaying schools for covering the costs of their students’ MAP grants. Another $36 million will be distributed to the state’s community colleges.

It’s the first batch of funding colleges and universities have received since a temporary stopgap budget expired at the start of the year. In all, the budget provides $1.1 billion in higher education funding for the past fiscal year that ended June 30.

Mendoza said in a statement that mounting pressure on lawmakers to prevent universities from collapsing and potentially losing accreditation was instrumental in ending the unprecedented stalemate.

“The state’s institutions of higher education were devastated by the budget crisis and their mistreatment proved to a be a breaking point for legislators on both sides of the aisle,” Mendoza said in a statement. “Delivering this money will provide immediate aid to students, parents, faculty and administrators who have struggled for more than two years to pay their bills.”

“Like the many legislators who supported a bipartisan budget solution last week, my office is committed to helping our colleges and universities recover from the unprecedented – and unnecessary – wreckage,” she added.

Mendoza on Thursday was in Charleston, home of Eastern Illinois University, where the school’s president, David Glassman, showed the Democratic comptroller the effects of the budget impasse.

EIU, which is receiving an expedited $5.7 million payment, was forced to lay off more than 400 faculty members over the course of the stalemate.

In addition to layoffs and other cost-cutting measures, many public universities had to tap into cash reserves to fill the hole left by the lack of state funding.

During that time, five universities had their credit ratings lowered to “junk” status as a result of severe cash flow problems.

“Our schools and our students need stability. These desperately needed past-due payments will bring more stability to operations going into the fall semester and provide a reassurance to the accrediting and credit rating agencies that state funds are on the way,” Mendoza said.

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