University of Illinois President Robert Easter led 12 deans, vice chancellors, and other emerging leaders from Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield to Washington, DC this week as part of his President's Executive Leadership Program. The two-day visit provided participants with greater exposure to the university’s federal priorities as well as the policymaking process in Washington.
Senator Durbin Promotes Legislation to Reduce Student Loan Debt.
Sen. Dick Durbin took to the South Lounge of the Illini Union Wednesday to promote legislation he favors to reduce student loan debt. The bill, Bank on Students Emergency Refinancing Act, would allow eligible individuals with outstanding student loan debt to refinance their loans (federal and private) at the lower interest rates presently offered to new borrowers as a result of last summer's student loan interest rate deal. The Senate will vote on the bill after it returns next week.
Chancellor Phyllis Wise welcomed Sen. Durbin to campus and thanked him for advocating for students. Sen. Durbin spoke about the merits of the legislation, while a recent graduate and rising senior shared their personal student loan anxieties. Dan Mann, Urbana's Director of Financial Aid, described the university's efforts to make college more affordable, including ensuring that students have access to low-cost loans. Urbana's student loan default rates and debt load are both below the national average.
Persistent problems of corruption and mismanagement have left Illinois the butt of jokes and threatened it with fiscal catastrophe. Political veterans James D. Nowlan and J. Thomas Johnson have written a prescription for solving the problems of the state in the form of the new book Fixing Illinois: Politics and Policy in the Prairie State.
The authors began a push to get the word out about the book and the issues which plague Illinois including pension reform, a shrinking tax base, persistent corruption and others.
James Nowlan penned four op-ed pieces based upon Fixing Illinois that were carried in multiple Illinois regional newspapers including the Kankakee Daily Journal and Champaign-Urbana's News-Gazette.
Thomas Johnson appeared on WTTW-TV program Chicago Tonight (link below) on May 21, 2014.
Johnson also made multiple appearances in southern Illinois in early May including interviews with newspaper The Southern, and interviews on WJPF-AM radio and WSIL-TV.
Easter, Pierre Press UI Priorities on Hill
With both the House and Senate education committees looking to introduce draft Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization language by late spring / early summer, President Easter and VPAA Pierre met with education committee staff from both chambers to communicate UI's priorities in the areas of accountability, transparency, completion, and affordability.
They also met with Members of the Illinois delegation, including Representatives Adam Kinzinger, Rodney Davis, and Aaron Schock to urge them to support federal funding for research and help close the innovation deficit. They thanked Reps. Kinzinger and Schock for their leadership on supporting immigration reform, including DREAM Act students and STEM visas.
IGPA Honors Justice John Paul Stevens with Paul Douglas Award
Sen. Dick Durbin and UI's Institute for Government & Public Affairs (IGPA) hosted its annual Paul H. Douglas Ethics in Government Award. This year's Paul Douglas Award, which honors elected or career government officials who have demonstrated high standards of ethics and public service, was presented to Justice John Paul Stevens. Justice Stevens' award marks only the second time the Paul Douglas award has been presented to a Supreme Court justice. President Easter and IGPA Director Chris Mooney made remarks