Gov. Pat Quinn is demonstrating how paying the state’s pension obligation is taking money away from other things. Today’s lesson is the Monetary Award Program for college students, the commitment to which has dropped from $405 million to $387 million since 2009, leaving eligible students out in the cold.
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“Unfortunately because of the cutbacks, due to having to pay more money into the pension amount there, we had 18,000 fewer students get these scholarships in the past year. This is where the squeeze is. We have to understand it’s squeezing our money for education, our health care, our public safety,” Quinn said. Quinn says if the state had the money, he’d double the amount available for MAP grants.
This is particularly so since the state this year abolished legislative scholarships. The governor said at the time that there should be funds available through MAP grants so that needy and deserving students can attend college, not those who are somehow politically connected. The state neglected its pension payments for decades, resulting in an unfunded liability of $95 billion, and is now spending billions to get up to speed, or at least to keep current. Quinn is pushing lawmakers to reduce pension benefits for state workers and retirees to ease the strain on the state budget.