Quinn pushing funding hike for college grant program

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Rae Kirby, a senior at DePaul, credits the state’s need-based financial aid program known as MAP for helping her avoid a great deal of the student loan debt she would otherwise incur.

“With the MAP grant, it has been a big relief to my mom and has allowed me to go to school,” said Kirby, a Hyde Park native who receives $4,720 in the Monetary Assistance Program grant money each year.

She receives MAP and other financial aid toward her yearly tuition of $32,937.

Kirby spoke at Gov. Pat Quinn’s news conference Thursday at the DePaul Student Center, 2250 N. Sheffield Ave., where Quinn touted his proposed $50 million increase in MAP funding, to $423 million, in fiscal 2015, and a doubling of the state’s current $373 million outlay over five years.

Quinn warned that $50 million will be cut from the MAP funding if the Legislature allows the personal income tax increase to expire. The bulk of the increase is set to expire in January unless the Legislature acts. In his budget address last week, Quinn proposed making permanent a temporary 67 percent income tax increase he enacted in 2011, but added the sweetener of $500 yearly property tax refunds to eligible homeowners.

“Our state is underfunding education and overburdening families with property tax,” Quinn said, noting that he believes income tax revenue should be used to invest in education ranging from K-12 to community college to four-year public and private colleges and universities.

As Quinn, who is running for re-election this year, trumpeted the proposal, his Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner, questioned Quinn’s committment to the program.

“The unfortunate truth is Pat Quinn cut the MAP program, but now that it is an election year he is traveling the state telling a different story,” Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said in an emailed statement. “College students in Illinois deserve better.”

At the DePaul event, Quinn declined to give an opinion on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s pension-overhaul proposal that would increase property taxes in Chicago, saying the proposal hasn’t taken final form.

“The bill hasn’t moved forward,” said Quinn. “We will look at the final version.”

Kirby, who expects to obtain a bachelor’s degree in journalism in November and a master’s degree in journalism in June 2015, estimates she will graduate with $10,000 to $15,000 in debt. That compares with the national average student loan debt of $29,400.

Kirby is an example of 5,000 students among DePaul’s 25,000-member student body who receive the MAP grants.

Quinn said the MAP grants help 140,000 students statewide, and his proposed $50 million increase would expand the program to 21,000 more students. About 58 percent of MAP grant recipients have no resources to pay for college and 40 percent are Latino and African-American, according to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

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