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Illinois Treasurer seeking input on higher ed investment

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Springfield, IL - Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs is trying to find the best ways to make college more affordable. His office has $750 million from a law focused on higher education investments.

Michael Frerichs has been passionate about helping more people go to college since he served as a State Senator. Now the Treasurer has a large pot of money available to help students plan for their future.

The Student Loan Investment Act could help close to 50,000 college students and graduates in Illinois. Frerichs wants to know how residents want the money spent.

"We want to make sure that we don't lose money here, but that we're not part of the problem of gauging our students or contributing to it," Frerichs said.

Even with the extra funding, Frerichs knows this will be a hard task. That's why he is holding forums on college campuses to hear from students, professors and financial experts.

"I really had to do a lot of self-research and self-educate myself on a lot of what I was doing with loans I was taking out and any interest I would acquire with that," said Joanna Piphus, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Graduate Student. "I don't think it was a lot of external help. It was all on me to self-educate myself."

Graduate students like Piphus know the financial burden limits the amount of people who are able to go to college. But what do younger students think?

How much is it going to cost?

"When you think about college, that's one of the main things you think about. How much is it going to cost or will you be in debt," said Victoria Fry, a sophomore at the University of Illinois Springfield. "So that's a reason why people either go or if they can't afford it they probably don't want to get into that much debt."

Fry says the state should give high schools more resources to help students understand loan payments before they take them out.

Sophomore Nolan Flaherty agrees. He says paying for college can be a vicious cycle.

"Where is the tangible abilities and opportunities for people to go and get a job when they are stuck in so much debt and have a degree when the value of that degree just went down," asked Flaherty.

Frerichs hopes this plan will help lower the financial burden for students in the future, as well as those currently struggling to pay off student loans.

The Treasurer's Office will use ideas from the forums to draft a financial proposal. The first installment of funds should be distributed next year.

Mike Miletich

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