Rauner signs bills securing MAP grants, easing credit transfers for college students

Rauner signs bills securing MAP grants, easing credit transfers for college students

SPRINGFIELD — Two bills signed into law Monday should help Illinois colleges and universities attract in-state students, providing more secure financial aid and easier credit transfers, lawmakers say.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 5020, giving students who receive Monetary Award Program grants more guarantees that the money will keep flowing throughout their four-year college careers.

The grants are awarded annually, but the bill gives priority access to returning students who are eligible for grant renewals.

That change eliminates the uncertainty many students have felt from year to year, wondering if their grants would be renewed, said Barbara Wilson, executive vice president for academic affairs for the University of Illinois system.

"For our students, having some commitment of multi-year funding is really critical," she said. "For MAP students in particular, not knowing from year to year whether there would be state funding to back up the initial commitment has been a real challenge."

In the past, legislators would say they couldn't commit to funding for future years because they didn't know what the budget would be, she said.

"This is a huge step in the right direction," she said. "It gives students some continuity and commitment for four years."

It will also help the university recruit and retain Illinois students, she said.

"Our colleges and universities are among the greatest in the world," Rauner said at the signing ceremony, "and they ought to be choices of first resort for students who reside here. The MAP Grant revision means our schools are now in a position to make aid offers that Illinois-based students will be more eager to accept."

Nearly 130,000 students across Illinois received MAP grants in fiscal 2018, including 19,400 at the three UI campuses, in Urbana, Chicago and Springfield. The UI students received a total of $83 million in MAP funding, Wilson said.

Wilson thanked the four legislators who co-chaired the bipartisan Higher Education Working Group appointed by Rauner: Sens. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, and Pat McGuire, D-Crest Hill, and Reps. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, and Kelly Burke, D-Evergreen Park.

Rose, who has championed the idea of MAP guarantees for years, said the bill was a response to "every admissions director at our four-year public universities who said that Illinois' current MAP Grant program was a door stop for prospective students and their parents when they were looking at attending a college in Illinois.

"This new law ends the competitive disadvantage our four-year universities had when it comes to offering MAP Grants and can help end the 'brain-drain' of Illinois' best and brightest moving out of Illinois," Rose said.

Rauner also signed Senate Bill 2354, designed to make it easier for students to transfer credits from one Illinois school to another. The new law encourages institutions to counsel students more closely on how best to apply credits toward degrees and requires students who submit 30 or more credits to declare their degree interest so that the schools can advise on the best path to completion, the governor said.

The idea is to help prevent students from spending time and money on unnecessary credits, he said.

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