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Director of Government Relations
August 4, 2011
For the full bill text and the most up-to-date information on legislation being considered by the Illinois General Assembly, please see the General Assembly’s website, http://www.ilga.gov/. If you have questions about these or other pending bills, feel free to e-mail Katharine Gricevich at firstname.lastname@example.org or Trena Sabo at email@example.com.
The Illinois General Assembly adjourned its Spring legislative session late May 31st, having approved a fiscal year 2012 budget that spends significantly less than had been requested by the Governor and passing a number of higher education-related measures that may affect college access and affordability in the future.
Budget – Higher Education
The Governor signed the State’s Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) budget for higher education on June 30th, authorizing spending for colleges and universities, the State’s higher education agencies, and student financial assistance (House Bill 3700, Madigan/Kotowski – Public Act 97-69). Unlike recent budgets, in which the General Assembly approved lump sums for agencies to allocate as needed, the FY2012 budget designates specific line-by-line appropriations. Reallocation of funds among ISAC budget lines allowed a few ISAC-administered programs to be funded at higher levels than they were during FY11, but the overall FY12 ISAC general funds appropriation of $406,865,000 is nearly $9 million less than last year’s.
The most notable change in the FY12 ISAC budget is a cut of $17.2 million from the Monetary Award Program (MAP), despite record demand for need-based student assistance. The FY12 appropriation for MAP is approximately $386.7 million.
Initially, House members who drafted HB 3700 intended the cut in the MAP appropriation to be accompanied by substantive legislation: an elimination of MAP grants for students at proprietary schools. (See Senate Bill 1773, below.) Although the budget cuts were approved, the language regarding proprietary schools was not. This leaves the program, at this time, with a smaller appropriation but no commensurate reduction in the number of eligible students.
The higher education budget also effectively eliminates state support for the Student-to-Student grant program, which provides state funds to match students’ voluntary contributions. The funds provide emergency financial assistance to students in need.
In better news, P.A. 97-69 restores limited funding for the Illinois Veteran Grant (IVG), to reimburse public universities and community colleges for waiving veterans’ tuition and fees. The appropriation of $6 million in the ISAC budget should be sufficient to pay most summer term claims for the program. The majority of the remaining IVG claims in the community college sector will be covered by an appropriation of $7.25 million made to the Illinois Community College Board for IVG.
The higher education budget also funds community colleges and public universities at higher levels than most observers had expected, cutting direct appropriations to public universities by 1.15% and funding community college operations (including base operating grants and equalization grants) at FY2011 levels.
Although HB 3700 was approved by both chambers, some hope remains for additional student assistance funding in FY2012, at least for MAP. Several legislators have expressed support for a supplemental appropriation for MAP and other programs during the fall veto session or early in calendar year 2012. Others suggested that the Governor use uncommitted funds that were allocated to him for FY2011 to fill what he considers to be “holes” in the FY2012 budget. The Governor has described the General Assembly's budget as “incomplete,” specifically mentioning college student assistance and early childhood education among those programs that he felt required additional investment.
For its part, a majority of the State Senate has already voted in favor of further MAP spending. That chamber approved an additional budget measure this spring (Senate Amendment #1 to HB 2189) that would have increased the appropriation for a number of programs that were cut or left unfunded by the House budget. The additions included $17.2 million to reverse the House bill's MAP cuts and put that program back at the FY11 level. However, the House did not accept the Senate's changes.
Other budget -related measures
Lapse Period: With the State’s backlog of unpaid bills expected not just to continue but to grow, the General Assembly and Governor opted to ease immediate cash flow problems by extending the lapse period for FY11. Under SB 2172 (Cullerton/Madigan – Public Act 97-0075), the lapse period—that is, the portion of FY12 during which bills from FY11 may still be paid—will be extended through December 31, 2011. Vouchers for FY11 liabilities must still be received by the Comptroller no later than August 31, 2011.
Borrowing: Some State Senators also attempted to address the State’s immediate cash flow problems by refinancing existing debt. SB 342 (Sullivan – Trotter) would have allowed the State to issue just under $1.5 billion in “State General Obligation Restructuring Bonds,” the proceeds of which would have been used to pay non-governmental vendors for services billed to the State prior to June 30, 2011. The proposal failed in the Senate on a vote of 19-23-4. In April, the State Comptroller announced that the office’s backlog of bills stood at $4.52 billion.
Gaming: Further decisions on supplemental appropriations for FY12 could be affected by the final outcome of one bill to enhance revenues by expanding gaming in Illinois. As of this writing, the Governor has not pledged either to veto or to sign the measure. If enacted, Senate Bill 744 (Link/Lang –passed both houses) will allow five additional casinos, expansion of existing casinos, and slot machines at horse racing tracks. Proponents tout the measure as a way to create jobs and bring in additional funds estimated at as much as $1.6 billion in licensing fees plus annual revenues exceeding $700 million. Those estimates have been contested by opponents.
Higher Education Access and Affordability
Several other measures related to higher education access and affordability were considered in the General Assembly this spring:
MAP at proprietary schools
As noted above, one especially contentious proposal would have prohibited MAP grants for students at proprietary institutions, nine of which are expected to be part of the program for the coming school year. This proposal was attached to SB 1773 (Maloney/Pritchard – Senate Committee on Assignments). House Amendment 1 and House Amendment 4, sponsored by Representative Chapin Rose, passed the House 61-46-4 after heated debate but were not approved in the State Senate. During House debate, some representatives argued that proprietary schools fill a valuable role for their constituents and that MAP should be available to help those constituents attend the institution of their choice. Other members were concerned about the timing of the proposal, since about 8,000 low-income students who planned to enroll in proprietary institutions this fall had already been told their estimated award amounts by the time this proposal was considered in May. Proponents responded to this latter concern by amending the measure to delay implementation of the ban until July 1, 2012. Even with the delayed effective date, however, the Senate sponsor did not call the House’s language for a concurrence vote in the Senate, leaving students at eligible for-profit schools in MAP for the coming 2011-12 school year.
Performance-based higher education funding
Several bills filed this spring were attempts to make more efficient use of existing funds for postsecondary education and student financial assistance. In particular, many legislators began to frame their proposals in the context of the State's goal of dramatically improving college completion and the Illinois Public Agenda for College and Career Success.
As amended, HB 1503 (Rose/Maloney – Sent to the Governor) may be the clearest example of a proposal closely tied to the completion goal and the Public Agenda. Expected to be signed, the bill will mandate the adoption of performance-based funding for higher education, geared towards promoting and measuring student success in degree and certificate completion. Performance measures in the new system will be developed by a steering committee comprising representatives from the Governor’s office, the General Assembly, postsecondary institutions, state agencies, business and industry, faculty and staff unions, and others, convened by the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE).
The new performance funding structure may be implemented gradually but must begin with the budgeting process for FY13, which is academic year 2012-13. The bill specifically notes the need for a consultative process for developing the new funding incentives and metrics, along with the importance of rewarding improvements in the success of students who are financially or academically at-risk. HB 1503 also explicitly directs that the new funding structure be designed to maintain the quality of academic programs and that the structure acknowledge the different missions of various higher education sectors. The bill specifically notes that measurements for community colleges may include factors such as students’ progress through key academic milestones and transfer to baccalaureate institutions. The measure received unanimous support in both chambers of the General Assembly and has been publicly championed by the Lieutenant Governor.
The College Planning Act
While HB 1503 approaches the completion goal by attempting to promote and reward positive behavior from institutions, ISAC staff worked with legislators to develop another approach that focuses on improving completion by providing information and support for students and their families. Under the College Planning Act (HB 1710 – Pritchard/Maloney – Sent to the Governor), ISAC would administer a program that would allow low-income and first-generation eighth grade students and their families to sign up for a series of outreach opportunities, events, and services related to college planning and financial aid and lasting throughout high school and college. The program would capitalize on the existing efforts of the College Illinois! Corps and, by holding periodic in-person events for participants, attempt to foster a supportive “cohort” environment. The Corps program is currently funded by the federal College Access Challenge Grant. The College Planning Act passed the House unanimously and was approved by a vote of 42-13 in the Senate. Detractors expressed concern that, if federal funding is eliminated for the program, there could be pressure to expend state dollars for the program.
Understanding first-generation students
In another measure aimed at improving retention and graduation among first-generation college students, SB 122 (Sandoval/Carli – Sent to the Governor) would require institutions to report admission, retention, and graduation statistics of students who are the first in their immediate family to attend an institution of higher education (“first-generation students”) to the IBHE. The data would be included in the agency’s annual underrepresented groups report.
The Illinois DREAM Act
On August 1st, the Governor signed into law the Illinois DREAM Act, contained in SB 2185 (Cullerton/Acevedo – Public Act 97-0233). Senators approved the measure with a strong bi-partisan majority, and a smaller (but not strictly partisan) majority voted “yes” in the House.
Designed to make scholarships, college savings, and prepaid tuition programs available to undocumented students who graduated from Illinois high schools, the Act creates an Illinois DREAM Fund and a nine-member Illinois DREAM Commission, to be appointed by the Governor with Senate consent. The Governor has announced that he hopes to fill the panel by mid-September. Individuals with an interest in serving on the DREAM Fund Commission may learn more about the Commissioners' duties and submit nomination forms at http://appointments.illinois.gov/appointmentsDetail.cfm?id=417.
More information about the DREAM Commission and DREAM Fund will be posted on the ISAC website when it becomes available. In the meantime, students and families seeking assistance may wish to visit the Web page of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights for a guide to existing scholarships that are available to undocumented students and a guide for undocumented students in Illinois. (NOTE: These guides are not produced by the State of Illinois, and neither the State nor ISAC is responsible for their content. Clicking these links will take you away from the ISAC Web site.)
The DREAM Fund Commission will raise contributions for the Fund, establish a not-for-profit entity to administer the Fund, publicize the availability of scholarships from the Fund, and select recipients. The DREAM Fund Commission will also be responsible for researching issues pertaining to higher education access and success among the children of immigrants, and it will develop and run training programs for high school counselors and admissions and financial aid staff. Information on undocumented students’ opportunities in postsecondary education will now be a mandatory component of high school counselors’ professional development activities.
Once the DREAM Fund Commissioners are appointed and the program is operational, to receive a scholarship from the DREAM Fund, a student will have to meet the same requirements that now apply to receiving an in-state tuition rate at one of Illinois’s public universities: In addition to having at least one parent who immigrated to the U.S., the student must have lived with a parent or guardian while going to high school in Illinois, graduated from that high school or received a GED, and attended school in Illinois for at least three years before graduating or receiving a GED certificate.
The Illinois DREAM Act also makes the State’s 529 college savings and prepaid tuition programs available to Illinoisans with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, regardless of whether they have social security numbers. This means that those undocumented Illinoisans with ITINs will be allowed to participate in both the College Illinois! Prepaid Tuition Program and the Bright Start and Bright Directions college savings plans.
The College Illinois!® Prepaid Tuition Program
The state’s College Illinois! Prepaid Tuition Program is also the subject of House Resolution 174 (Durkin), which was unanimously approved by the House in April. The resolution calls for the Illinois Auditor General to evaluate the level of risk in the investment portfolio of the Prepaid Tuition Program, in addition to auditing the program’s efficiency and operational spending. The Commission supported the adoption of the resolution, believing it to be a necessary step to restoring contract holder confidence. With ISAC’s cooperation, the Office of the Auditor General has already begun its work in response to the resolution.
The sponsor of HR 174, Representative Jim Durkin, also filed an amendment that would move the administration of the College Illinois! Prepaid Tuition Program from ISAC to the office of the Comptroller. Although the underlying bill, SB 1728 (Bivins/J. Mitchell) was assigned to the House Executive Committee, neither the underlying bill nor the Durkin amendment was heard.
Both chambers have also sent the Governor:
Also proposed but not pursued this year were bills freezing tuition and fees at public community colleges and universities (SB 114 and SB 135 - Sandoval), a bill to require each public institution of higher education to establish an office of advising for first-generation college students (SB 120 - Sandoval), a bill allowing a veteran who is eligible for the Illinois Veteran Grant to confer that benefit on a dependent (HB 3269– Rosenthal), and several bills to eliminate the GA Scholarship entirely (including HB 201 – Pihos, HB 227 – Franks, HB 2868 – Farnham). An additional bill that failed to advance beyond the committee stage would have created a Department of Education to which IBHE, the Illinois Community College Board, and the Illinois State Board of Education would report (HB 152 – M. Davis).
The General Assembly gave nearly unanimous support this spring for Senate Bill 1 (Cullerton-Radogno/Madigan-Cross – Bill dead), a bill that would have barred gubernatorial appointees requiring the advice and consent of the Senate from serving longer than 30 days beyond the expiration of their terms. As gubernatorial appointees, ISAC Commissioners and public university trustees would have been among the office-holders subject to this bill.
However, after the Governor moved to delay the effective date of that bill, the Senate President introduced a new, more limited measure. HB 2972 (Turner/Cullerton – Sent to the Governor) would limit terms for holdover appointees, temporary appointees, and acting appointees only if they receive compensation for their service or if they serve on a public university board of trustees. The bill allows holdovers to remain in office for no more than 60 days past the expiration of their terms.
The new bill would not apply to ISAC Commissioners, but some public university representatives have expressed concern, indicating that their boards of trustees currently include a number of holdover appointees. If those holdovers are forced to leave office and vacancies are not immediately filled, they argue, the boards’ ability to act in a timely manner could be jeopardized.
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
Finally, HB 1716 (Currie/Harmon – Sent to the Governor) makes controversial changes to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act to address “recurrent requesters.” Prompted largely by complaints from local governments about changes made to FOIA in recent years, the bill extends the time period for a public body to respond to a requester who, in the 12 months immediately preceding the request, has submitted to the same public body (i) a minimum of 50 requests for records, (ii) a minimum of 15 requests for records within a 30-day period, or (iii) a minimum of 7 requests for records within a 7-day period. Most requests from news media, non-profits, and academic and scientific organizations would be exempt.
In the case of commercial requests, the bill also allows a public body to charge a fee (up to $10/hour) for each hour spent by personnel in searching for and retrieving requested records. The measure, which includes other changes with respect to commercial requesters, has been sent to the Governor for consideration.
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