Rauner signs pair of higher-education bills in stop at Papa Del's

Rauner signs pair of higher-education bills in stop at Papa Del's

CHAMPAIGN — Gov. Bruce Rauner returned to Champaign for the second week in a row, this time to sign two bills meant to keep Illinois students in Illinois colleges.

The first creates a $25 million fund that public universities can match to provide scholarships to Illinois students.

This program will be merit-based, in contrast with the need-based MAP, or Monetary Award Program, grants the state already provides.

The Aim High scholarship will "keep the very best students in state, attending college with the financial support they need," Rauner said Tuesday before signing the legislation at Papa Del's Pizza Factory, less than a week after signing a bill in Champaign to protect the Mahomet Aquifer.

The second bill signed Tuesday creates a task force to study how to collect data on high school students' college and career interests.

Chancellor Robert Jones said the University of Illinois will take advantage of the new scholarship fund.

"We will find the money for it," he said. "A merit-based scholarship for student support has always been one of our top priorities, so it's really exciting to get some support from the state to help us be more effective at keeping some of the best students here in the state."

Funds will be disbursed in proportion to the undergraduate, in-state enrollment at public universities, which will set their own requirements for the scholarship.

The bills stem from the work of the Higher Education Working Group, a bipartisan group of Illinois legislators who have been meeting since September.

State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said college admissions directors asked for a merit-based scholarship when they met with the working group.

"This is a direct response to us listening to the admissions and financial aid directors," Rose said.

Rauner also signed two bills last week that the working group put together: a guarantee that students' MAP grants will be renewed for their four years in college and easier credit transfers between Illinois schools.

The other bill signed Tuesday regarding high school student data was scaled back from the opt-out survey that was proposed in May.

It's now a task force that has until Jan. 30, 2019, to submit recommendations for collecting data.

The changes were made over privacy concerns, Rose said.

"We were a little farther down the pike with where we wanted to go than maybe we could comfortably do with the federal regulations," Rose said.

Jones said data on high school students' career and college interests would be valuable.

"It's important to understand the students' perspective on these critically important issues," he said.

Rauner signed the bills at Papa Del's instead of at the UI, Rose said, because owner Bob Monti is an example of an Illinois student who stayed in Illinois.

"He came to Champaign from DuPage County. He came down here to go to the U of I and started Papa Del's out of his fraternity house," Rose said. "What if his 70 employees were at Purdue? This isn't a hypothetical, folks. This is what's happening every day when we let one of these kids leave Illinois."

"I know Chapin Rose very well, and he sort of set it up," Monti said about how Tuesday's event ended up at Papa Del's, adding that he supports the legislation Rauner signed.

"Yay, Papa Del's pizza," Rauner said.