Wednesday, January 29, 2020
Today, the Governor delivered his first State of the State Address, and PCC was pleased to see that renewed investments in higher education were highlighted.
Increase in MAP Grants
Governor Pritzker acknowledged expanding student grants, which include the Monetary Award Program (MAP), saying that the state is "expanding scholarships to an additional 10,000 college-bound students."
The governor's $50 million increase in MAP last year was a crucial addition that allowed thousands more students to enroll and persist in college. Still, additional investments are needed; this year, tens of thousands of students will be denied aid despite being eligible and applying, and awarded grants will cover only a fraction of what they used to in terms of college costs. We agree that MAP increases have been an essential boost to Illinois, but recognize this is only the beginning in making college more affordable for our low-income students.
"It's time for us to recommit ourselves to the hard work of bringing prosperity and opportunity to all communities in Illinois through a fairer tax system…"
Governor Pritzker identified the need for the Fair Tax Amendment to pass, and the Partnership agrees; new revenues from this source are necessary to develop a budget that adequately invests in our students, and this would raise funds equitably.
In his address, the Governor mentioned the increase in college enrollment in the state: "after years of decline, we are turning around university student enrollment by making college more affordable…"
We agree that this is an important achievement, and that college affordability is paramount for Illinois students. However, thousands of young adults throughout the state still lack access to and/or cannot afford college, particularly at our states four-year institutions. With a continued focus on equity, as well as investing in students and institutions, the state can further increase enrollment at the public colleges and universities serving our state's most financially vulnerable students.
"We passed a bipartisan, truly balanced budget on time, with renewed investments in job creation, cradle to career education, and physical and mental healthcare... Jobs and businesses are coming to this state because we are investing in the things that have always made us great: a skilled workforce, modern infrastructure, great public schools, top research universities…"
After 17 years of harmful disinvestment in Illinois institutions, the incremental additions to higher education appropriations should not be downplayed, as colleges have already seen enrollment gains. However, investing in a higher educational system capable of ensuring that all students have access to the careers of the future will take further commitment from the Governor's Office and legislature over the coming years.
Overall Focus on Education
The Partnership is heartened by the Governor's focus on education in his address, and we agree that improving the B-20 educational system has to be a priority, such that Illinoisans have opportunities to succeed that aren't limited by location, race, or income. This year, we urge Governor Pritzker to commit to policies that will make lasting impacts on equity, such as increasing MAP by $100 million, eliminating state financial aid at for-profit colleges and redirecting those funds to thousands of students not receiving MAP awards, investing in emergency grants to help students complete, and supporting student parents pursuing their college degree by providing information on critical services. We look forward to working with Governor Pritzker and the legislature, and to making progress toward providing more equitable pathways for all students to succeed.