* Steve Daniels at Crain’s…
It will cost an estimated $501 million to bail out what at the end of the day was a relatively small-scale effort, begun in the late 1990s, to help parents pay for college at what was designed to be no cost to taxpayers, according to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, which has administered the program since its inception. ISAC officials have struck a deal with state lawmakers to bail out the program while closing it to future participants.
More than 73,000 have been or are beneficiaries of contracts to attend state schools since College Illinois was launched, according to ISAC documents.
The $727 million fund backing the contracts is projected to begin running out of money in 2026. Without taxpayer help, more than 2,000 contract beneficiaries would be at risk of being stiffed.
Technically, the bills don’t start coming due for the state until then. But, ISAC spokeswoman Lynne Baker emails, “We have suggested to policymakers that it would be best to start funding the obligation sooner rather than later.”
What had been a $308 million unfunded liability now has mushroomed to more than $500 million thanks to the decision to end the program for all but existing contract holders. The need to more quickly liquidate the fund will reduce the return ISAC can hope to achieve from its investments, draining the fund more quickly, according to a December actuarial update.
Ugh. This state has truly sucked at governing.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker pledged during a visit Thursday at Richland Community College in Decatur that his proposed budget will lead to more funding for Illinois career technical education programs like the ones offered at the college.
More investment in higher education was a key aspect of the budget plan he proposed in February. He said faculty members have left Illinois universities for other states because of a 10-year lack of proper funding and students worry about uncertain financial aid.
“My grandfather once said ‘It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and about five minutes to screw it up,’” said Pritzker during a meeting with The Pantagraph’s editorial board. “In the last four years in Illinois, I would argue that our colleges’ and universities’ reputations got damaged significantly … If you want to fix that problem, you’ve got to make the investment in universities and community colleges.”
Pritzker’s proposed budget unveiled Feb. 20 calls for adding $375 million to the school funding formula — $25 million more than the state is required to fund. It also proposes a 5 percent increase in funding for public universities and community colleges and a boost to the Monetary Award Program that assists low- and moderate-income students.