"MAP Plus is the first grant
program ever in Illinois specifically designed to help middle-class
families afford the high cost of college," Blagojevich said.
"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."
Senate Bill 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 grant per
student for sophomores, juniors and seniors from families with
incomes less than $200,000 who attend college in Illinois but did
not receive MAP grants. In total, 225,000 students will benefit from
the creation of MAP Plus and the additional funding for MAP. Funding
for MAP this year is up by $34.4 million -- increasing grants to
help more students and their parents afford college. The fiscal 2007
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 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,"
said McCarthy. "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."
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
data. Even two-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 work force 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," said Judy Erwin,
executive director of the education board. "It clearly is important
to ensuring Illinois has the qualified work force 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. 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."
[to top of second column]
Funding for MAP Plus will come from restructuring or selling part
of the student loan portfolio now held by the Illinois Student
Assistance Commission. MAP Plus has been approved only for the
upcoming school year, after which the commission -- by statutory
requirement -- will recommend whether MAP Plus should continue.
In a letter to Illinois college financial assistance officers
last week, the commission's 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 the commission.
"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," McNeil said.
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 Illinois Student Assistance
Commission, 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, the Illinois
Student Assistance Commission -- 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 the commission.
In 2005 alone, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission 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
the commission's innovative CollegeZone website and other outreach
The fiscal 2007 budget also includes a $48 million increase in
general funds 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.
[News release from the governor's office]