Metro-East News

Lawmakers send college tuition grant funding plan to Rauner

State Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton.
State Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton. AP Photos

State senators from the metro-east split along party lines Thursday as the Senate approved a measure to fully fund tuition grants for low-income students.

The measure passed mostly on support from Democrats, despite Republican concerns the state can’t pay for its promises.

The Senate approved the measure Thursday on a 39-15 vote. The bill goes to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner next.

The measure sponsored by Democratic leaders House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton would appropriate an additional $227 million to colleges and universities to fully fund tuition grants under the Monetary Award Program. The plan doesn't include funding for colleges' operational costs.

Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, and Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, voted in favor of the bill. Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, and Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, voted against it.

Haine said, “I hope we can finally lay this issue to rest. We have been fighting for this funding for too long. Universities like Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, and the students who attend it, need state funding. This is our future and we must invest in it. I urge the governor to act quickly and sign this measure.”

Republican lawmakers cautioned against passing the proposal, saying Illinois doesn’t have money to pay for the grants because there’s no budget and the state is spending at a deficit.

Lawmakers and Rauner have only approved short-term measures to fund higher education, tuition grants and human services.