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McGuire: University bond ratings rise as state budget approved, damage to state universities can begin to heal

mcguire 020817SPRINGFIELD — In light of an approved state budget that includes funding for state universities and Monetary Award Grants for college students, S&P Global Ratings announced it has upgraded the bond ratings of four Illinois universities and has taken three other universities off of its watch list for a potential downgrade.

Illinois Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Pat McGuire said it’s the first sign of the road to fiscal recovery that universities face in the wake of a 736-day budget impasse that saw layoffs, program closures and students worrying over whether the financial aid the state had promised them would ever be paid.

“Wall Street isn’t easy to please,” said McGuire, D-Joliet. “This vote of confidence shows that Democratic and Republican legislators did the right thing by passing a bipartisan, balanced state budget.

“Now we need to regain the confidence of Illinois college-bound students and their families. That requires Gov. Rauner to wise up and realize that the stronger Illinois higher ed becomes, the stronger Illinois’ economy and quality of life becomes. Let’s hope the governor’s two-year fit of starving our colleges and universities is over.”

Southern Illinois University and Governors State University had their ratings lifted one level to BB+, while Northeastern Illinois University and Eastern Illinois University were upgraded one level to B+. Those four schools, as well as the A- rated University of Illinois and Illinois State University, were moved from “negative” to “stable” outlooks, indicating they are not at risk of being downgraded. Western Illinois University, rated at BB-, had its outlook raised to “positive” from “negative.”