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September 22, 2010

LINKING STUDENT AID TO STUDENT SUCCESS

Higher ed finance commission to examine ways to leverage financial aid
to college completion goals

 SPRINGFIELD – The MAP gap is growing larger. As the gap between available resources and the need for student financial aid dollars – via the need-based Monetary Award Program (MAP) – widens, Illinois students are finding their bridge to an affordable college degree no longer gets them where they need to go. More than 100,000 eligible applicants for MAP grants have been denied benefits this year because the money ran out five months ago. Maximum MAP grants no longer cover tuition and fees at any public university in Illinois.

Against this backdrop, the Higher Education Finance Study Commission will meet September 23rd at Robert Morris University in Chicago to discuss ways to leverage financial aid to achieve twin goals: making college more affordable and fostering increased degree completion.

The meeting will feature two experts in financial aid policies – one home-grown, and the other a national leader in student aid policies. Andy Davis, executive director of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), will give commissioners an update on activities the agency is undertaking to strengthen MAP and other initiatives aimed at fostering affordability. David Longanecker,  president of the Western Interstate Commission  for Higher Education, (WICHE), will compare Illinois’ financial aid programs and policies to those in other states, with an eye on how financial assistance can promote better student success.

“Expanding access to success for Illinois college students is a high priority for Illinois’ future economic development,” Carrie J. Hightman, Chairwoman of the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), said. “The Illinois MAP program has long been nationally recognized as one of the nation’s premier student aid efforts. I urge the commission to carefully examine this important program for new ways to finance and sustain it.”

The Chairwoman noted that the Illinois Public Agenda for College and Career Success calls for reviewing the state financial aid programs to ensure college affordability for students, families, and taxpayers. “I am confident that the discussions from this Commission meeting will bear fruit towards that goal.”

The finance study commission, comprised of state legislators, academic finance experts, and a broad cross-section of education, business, labor, and nonprofit leaders, will meet at 10 a.m. at Robert Morris University’s Culinary Dining Room, 401 S. State Street, Chicago. The Commission was created by Senate Joint Resolution 88, sponsored by Senator Ed Maloney and Representative Fred Crespo, both of whom serve on the panel. Other legislative members are Senator Pam Althoff and Representative Bob Pritchard. SJR 88 was passed unanimously by both the Senate and House.

The Commission’s purpose is to examine higher education funding and develop recommendations to the Board of Higher Education, the Governor, and the General Assembly that will explicitly link the goals of the Illinois Public Agenda for College and Career Success to the state’s higher education budgeting process

The Commission’s charge is to:

  • Evaluate current funding for Illinois higher education and compare it to peer states and institutions around the nation.

  • Develop a comprehensive funding strategy that connects state appropriations, tuition policies, and need-based student aid.

  • Consider alternative funding mechanisms to advance the goals of the Illinois Public Agenda, including improved student retention, program completion, and graduation.

The finance study is being conducted over the course of five meetings during the summer and fall, the first of which was held July 27 at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dennis Jones, president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) and a consultant in the development of the Illinois Public Agenda, will guide the process as facilitator for the Commission’s proceedings.

Additional information about the Commission can be found at: http://www.ibhe.org/SJR88/default.htm.

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