Illinois aspires to make higher education more accessible to everyone

Goff Justice announces a $20 million expansion of nursing education programs

ROCK ISLAND, Illinois — Steps are being taken in Illinois to improve financing for higher education. Sen. Mike Halpin, D-Rock Island, Recently appointed Chairman of the Illinois Senate Committee on Higher Education, he pays visits to various institutions.

He met with Augustana President Andrea Talentino to talk about how higher education can be made more accessible and affordable for everyone.

“(Illinois) is already making some good financial decisions that we have the opportunity to reinvest in higher education,” said Halpin.

Among those financial decisions was Governor JB Pritzker’s proposal to increase the cash rewards program, or “MAP grants” for short, to $701 million. This is a 75% increase from 2019.

“This MAP grant is absolutely essential, because it fills a large portion of what would otherwise fall on families, and allows them to make a much smaller family contribution,” said Talentino.

Halpin added, “I can’t tell you how many times a student has told me, ‘I wouldn’t have gone to college, if it wasn’t for the MAP scholarship.'”

Once students are in, it’s about making the transition from college to the workforce seamless.

“I want us as a country to be able to anticipate where jobs are going to be in demand next time and react faster so we don’t end up in such a gap when it comes to not having any particular occupation,” Halpin said. .

Talentino said nursing is a program Augustana is developing by building partnerships with area hospitals so more nurses will be in the pipeline.

News 8’s Joe McCoy asked Halpin how Illinois plans to predict which jobs will face shortages in the future, and he said it’s a matter of including the Council on Higher Education and the Department of Labor, who have data and can track job trends.

Halpin added that if the state did everything right, nearly everyone would be able to attend a community college for free, and that roughly 40% of people who want to attend a four-year institution would go for essentially free.

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