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December 23, 2010


Panel to weigh feasibility of ISAC plan to boost student financial aid

SPRINGFIELD –The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) today announced creation of a task force that features broad-based expertise in finance, business, and education to review a proposal of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) to provide supplemental funding for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) through college opportunity investment notes (COINS).

The nine-member blue ribbon task force will include a financier, business executive, state education leaders, and a student. The panel will be chaired by Tom Schmidt, the former president of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg.

The Board of Higher Education voted on December 7th to form the task force to examine the feasibility, sustainability, and advisability of the ISAC proposal to sell $100 million of college opportunity investment notes annually to supplement state funding of the cash-strapped MAP program.  The task force is to report its findings and recommendations to the Board at its February 15th meeting.

“The Illinois financial aid system is vastly underfunded, and as such cannot meet the exploding demand for need-based student assistance at the very time it is critically important that we do so,” Carrie J. Hightman, IBHE Chairwoman, said. She noted that as many as 120,000 students who were eligible for MAP grants were denied aid this school year because state funds were exhausted four months before the academic year began. In addition, the buying power of MAP grants has eroded in recent years to the extent that grants that once covered the entire cost of tuition and fees at public institutions now cover barely half the cost.

“I'm pleased that Tom Schmidt has agreed to chair this important task force, and I'm confident he and the other appointees will provide us with their best counsel," Hightman said. “The ISAC proposal has helped to refocus our attention on how Illinois can continue to make college affordable for more students in a time of economic uncertainty.  The task force is charged with taking a thorough, objective look at the MAP funding idea, and I look forward to their recommendations at our February 15th meeting.”

In addition to Schmidt, the task force will be comprised of:

  • Sharon Alpi, a professor at Milliken University and vice chair of ISAC,
  • Susan Friedberg, president of DeVry University-Illinois.
  • Dimitra Georgouses, a student at Roosevelt University and an IBHE student member,
  • Dean Mihas, a principal with GTCR, a private equity firm in Chicago,
  • Sue Morris, vice chair of the Illinois Community College Board,
  • Steve Rock, a professor of economics at Western Illinois University,
  • Jerry Roper, president and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce,
  • Rufus Williams, former president of the Chicago Public Schools, and

The need-based Monetary Award Program, created in 1967, was designed to help low- and middle-income Illinois residents attend the colleges of their choice within the state and last year provided assistance to more than 140,000 students.

A new website has been created to provide for public input, transparency, and to share task force announcements and related information with the public. Visit for more information, or e-mail comments and/or proposals in PDF format to



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