Illinois Public Media News
US Senator Dick Durbin says an overhaul of federal student loans will end years of students having to pay back a costly bank subsidy.
In a visit to Parkland College Thursday, Illinois' senior senator met with recipients of Pell Grants, a program that will add more than 20-thousand recipients in Illinois as the result of the overhaul. Durbin says the loans haven't kept pace with the cost of tuition, but they'll be increasing in value under this measure.
The overhaul also cuts out commercial banks and other lenders from the loan process. Durbin says the 45-year old loan program carried no risk to banks -- and they'd be paid in full -- even if a student defaulted on a loan:
"So banks were being given this opportunity to add to the interest rate on student loans in a risk-free environment. That is known in most circles as corporate welfare," Durbin said. "It cost us as a nation $8 billion a year that we were giving to banks and they were adding to the cost of student loans all around America. Students now struggling to pay back their student loans are now struggling to pay back this bank subsidy."
Federal student loan dollars will now be shifted to the direct loan program. For current 10-year loans, a person making $30,000 annually would have to pay $460 a month.
When the overhaul takes affects in 2014, Durbin says that amount will be reduced to just over $100 a month - and no more than 10% of someone's annual income when the program is fully implemented.
An internal City of Champaign investigation into a fatal police shooting last fall is winding down.
City attorney Fred Stavins says the two outside experts the city asked to conduct the study have completed much of their work looking into last October's shooting death of 15 year old Kiwane Carrington. Police say they confronted Carrington and another teenager as the two were trying to get into an acquaintance's home on Vine Street - an officer's firearm went off and hit Carrington during a scuffle.
Stavins says retired Urbana police chief Eddie Adair and retired McLean County Judge John Freese continue to meet, but their fact-finding portion of the review is generally complete - and he says that's only one segment of the overall investigation.
"There's been an internal investigation that involves police personnel", says Stavins. "And subsequent to that, there'll be another review by another group in the police department --- the Firearm Discharge Board."
Stavins says any ultimate changes to police policy or other outcomes of the report will be up to City Manager Steve Carter. He says the goal is to determine whether the Carrington incident should lead to changes in policy. But Stavins says it will not second-guess a state police investigation that cleared Chief RT Finney and Officer Daniel Norbits of criminal wrongdoing. Carrington's aunt has filed a wrongful -death lawsuit against the officers and the city.
A McLean County judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Urbana School District against a Normal-based district over a former teacher now imprisoned for child molestation.
In dismissing the lawsuit Tuesday, Judge Scott Drazewski said Unit 5 was immune from the civil action because it is a public body, and also said Urbana District 116 missed the legal deadline for filing.
The Urbana district was seeking $1 million, saying it wanted the money to help cover the $2 million it paid to settle claims filed by nine girls molested there by teacher Jon White after he left McLean County. Urbana officials say Unit 5 failed to disclose that White had been forced to resign.
White is serving 60 years in prison for molesting two girls in Unit 5 and the nine in Urbana.
University of Illinois administrators are meeting with two 'green energy' student groups next week to decide if a plan for placing a wind turbine on the Urbana campus still has life. A $2 million grant awarded in 2005 will expire in three months, unless the U of I can find a funding source to pick up the remaining cost. With dwindling state funds, members of groups like the Student Sustainability Committee and Students for Environmental Concerns suggest the capital bill approved by Illinois lawmakers, or the U of I Foundation, could pay the remaining $1.7 million for the turbine.
U of I Interim Vice Chancellor for Public Engagement Steven Sonka says the turbine would appear to produce a reasonable rate of return, and would be an attractive option if financing were available. But he suggests there are more effective uses for that kind of money... including retro-commissioning of some campus buildings. "These are very high payoff in terms of energy savings, because it's the energy savings that pays back the initial investment,' says Sonka. "And we want to do those, too. But that's a question of financing as well. We've gotten grants in the past to change lighting in buildings, and those tend to have attractive payoffs." With Urbana campus energy costs exceeding $75-million a year, student groups contend the turbine would quickly show some benefits.
Sonka says the student proposals for paying for the turbine's remaining cost would be considered. He says discussions with other 'outside entities' are being considered, but wouldn't comment on them. The initial grant for funding the wind turbine came from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. On Monday, Governor Pat Quinn indicated his support for the project in a visit to campus, noting wind energy was one goal of the recently-passed capital bill.
The Champaign School District is sending out tentative layoff notices to 149 teachers and support staff on Tuesday. That's 46 more than last year, thanks to uncertainties in state finances.
The Unit Four School Board approved the reduction-in- force, or RIF notices Monday night on a 5 to 1 vote. School board member Greg Novak said he voted "no", because too many questions were left unanswered --- although he wouldn't say what the questions were.
RIF notices are a spring tradition for Illinois school districts, with most employees hired back in the fall, when state funding has been finalized.
But due to the state budget crisis, Unit Four spokeswoman Beth Shepperd says they can't predict how much funding will come out of Springfield this year.
"What we're doing is trying to be very reactive to what the state is doing to us", says Shepperd. "Currently, they owe us $1.7 million in payments, that we do not know when or if we will receive. We don't expect it this fiscal year."
Unit Four School Board Vice President Susan Grey says voting on the RIF notices was more difficult than usual, due to the state funding uncertainties.
"Of course we are very concerned", says Grey. "These are people, these are their jobs, their livelihood. And these decisions are not made or taken lightly. I think our administration has done a good job of trying to pull together changes that will have the least amount of effect on the district as a whole, and the students."
The increase in RIF notices is sharpest for support staff --- the 53 RIF notices going out to them is two-and-a-half times greater than last year.
Shepperd says Early Childhood and Reading Enrichment programs are among the hardest hit by the RIF notices. But she says the impact will be felt in other programs, because tenured teachers may take positions elsewhere in the district, forcing the layoff of non-tenured teachers.
Earlier this month, the Urbana School Board approved RIF notices for 139 employees --- also an increase from last year.
Just over 600 employees on the University of Illinois' Urbana campus want to take advantage of voluntary separation programs offered early this year.
Friday is the deadline for applicants looking to leave their jobs or retire through the program. The incentive was offered earlier this year as a means for the U of I to cut costs amid Illinois' bleak financial picture. Spokeswoman Robin Kaler says human resources staff had no idea how many applicants they'd get, but she says the mere volume means employees won't hear word on a decision until the first week of May. Kaler says departments will soon have their work cut out for them when reviewing names. "Would allowing 'Person X' to separate save you money?,' says Kaler. "And obviously, if a unit has more than one person who's signed up, they would look at the whole picture. It might be that 'boy, we'd need to replace a piece of this person, but if that person also left, we could replace two people with one, or something like that." Kaler says the 613 applicants included about 350 civil service workers, and 180 academic professionals. Meanwhile, about 90 tenured faculty members, and another 16 adjunct professors and lecturers took advantage of a voluntary retirement incentive. About 30 applicants weren't eligible for the program, with about 20 more names to review. Human Resources on the Urbana campus offered the Campus Separation Incentive programs to anyone who had been on campus for at least four consecutive years. The retirement incentive applies to staff who meet State University Retirement System eligibility requirements. Eligible employees approved for either incentive would receive a lump sum payment of half their annual salary, with a maximum payment of 75-thousand dollars.
30 to 50 cadets at Rantoul's Lincoln's Challenge program could face expulsion over a fight in the academy's dining hall Sunday night.
The National Guard-sponsored academy is for students who dropped out of high school but want to rebuild their lives. National Guard public affairs director Major Brad Leighton says the fight apparently grew out of a dispute over a basketball game earlier yesterday. He says today staff are trying to sort out how the fight developed into an incident that brought about 20 Rantoul police officers to the hall, looking at surveillance tapes of the cafeteria.
No one was reported seriously injured.
Leighton says Lincoln's Challenge works on a military basis and has a zero-tolerance policy against fighting, so cadets involved may be kicked out of the program. Academy director Peter Thomas says the school is working as normal today.
The Illinois State women's basketball team defeated Illinois 53 to 51Sunday, in a close game that sends the Lady Redbirds to the Women's NIT Final Four.
Senior Jenna Smith scored with 1:43 left in the game to give Illinois a 51-50 lead over ISU. But the Redbirds' Katie Broadway shot a three-pointer with 17.5 seconds left to regain a lead that turned out to be the final score. Two Illinois shots at the basket in the final seconds --- the first by sophomore Lydia McCulley and the rebound by Smith --- were unsuccessful.
The game was close for most of the first half, with ISU pulling ahead to a 28-19 lead with three minutes in the half. Illinois started the second half with a 9-2 run to take a 33-32 lead at the 15:53 mark. After that, the lead went back and forth the two teams, with neither one leading by more than four, up through the Redbirds' two-point victory margin.
Freshman Karisma Penn led Illinois with 13 points, while Smith followed up with 12 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks in her final game for the Illini.
Nicolle Lewis was the Redbirds' top scorer, with 14 points and nine rebounds.
The game was played at Redbird Arena in Normal, in front of 4,459. ISU will host California Thursday, April 1st, in the Women's NIT semifinals. Illinois finishes its season with a 19-15 record, including their first-ever quarterfinal appearance at the WNIT..
Pink Floyd The Wall'' in its only surviving 70 millimeter print, and "Apocalypse Now Redux'' --- a longer 2001 re-edit of Francis Ford Cuppola's 1979 original --- are among the 13 movies on the schedule next month at Roger Ebert's annual film festival.
Organizers announced the lineup Friday for this year's Roger Ebert's Film Festival. The festival will be April 21-25 at the Virginia Theater in Champaign, with related events at the Illini Union at the University of Illinois. The Chicago Sun-Times film critic is a native of Urbana and a U of I graduate.
Other movies on the schedule include the 2009 Oscar Winner "Departures'' and a 2007 film shot in Rwanda with local actors called "Munyurangabo.''
This year's silent film is 1929's "Man With a Movie Camera", an avant-garde Russian film. As in past years, the three-person Alloy Orchestra will accompany the showing.
Roger Ebert's wife, Chaz, will once again act as emcee for the festival. Roger Ebert is unable to speak due to cancer surgery, but plans to play a role using a computer synthesis of his voice.
According to its organizers, Roger Ebert's Film Festival features films that the film critic feels have been overlooked, either by critics, distributors or audiences, or because they come from an overlooked genre or format.Besides the film showings, guests connected with many of the films will appear on the Virginia Theater stage for informal Q-and-A sessions after the screenings. The festival is presented by the University of Illinois College of Media, of which Illinois Public Media is a part.
Festival passes for the festival are sold out. Tickets for individual films go on sale April 5, through the Virginia Theater box office.
It will be the Illini versus the Redbirds in Women's NIT quarterfinal action this Sunday, following wins by both teams in third round play Thursday night.
Illinois defeated the Missouri State Lady Bears 65 to 53, with 17 points apiece from Lacey Simpson and Karisma Penn. Illinois' defense held Missouri State to 31 percent shooting and a season-low 53 points.
Meanwhile, Illinois State beat Kansas 71 to 51 at Redbird Arena in Normal. Ashleen Bracey led the Redbirds with 15 points and seven rebounds, while four of her teammates also scored. in double figures. The win was a reversal from 2009, when KU eliminated ISU from the WNIT in the semifinals.
Illinois State will host Illinois in the WNIT quarterfinals, Sunday, March 28th at 2:05 PM at Redbird Arena. The two teams last met in a non-conference game last November, when the Illini defeated the Redbirds, 62 to 51.
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