Southern Illinois communities fear economic effects of higher education budget cuts

so il hi ed hearingCARTERVILLE- Illinois higher education institutions are still running despite the absence of a higher education budget.

John A. Logan Community College, like many state universities and community colleges, is absorbing costs up front to allow students to return to school this fall. However, this may force colleges and universities to cut vital services.

Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Pat McGuire (D-Crest Hill) assembled the panel at John A. Logan to hear from community college representatives like Vice President for Business Services Brad McCormick, who is struggling to finance on-campus child care assistance and tutoring services for students.

“In order to help the over 400 students on our campus that were scheduled to receive the MAP grant, the college covered the cost of tuition and mandatory fees for these students rather than have their Pell Grant charged,” said McCormick. “This decision directly supports students who will receive a refund of their federal Pell Grants in the next week or so by putting more money in their hands to assist them in paying for food and transportation.

“However, if the state has not fulfilled its obligation to these students by funding the college for those awards by the end of the fall term, the college will have to reverse the aid and hold the students responsible,” McCormick said

Nearly 90 percent of the state’s spending has been appropriated by recent court rulings and the governor’s actions. The budget impasse continues as the governor continues to hold structural reforms as a bargaining chip over legislators’ heads.

“From the testimony today, we can see that another one of Governor Rauner’s tactics to stifle Southern Illinois’ economy and stunt educational opportunities for our children is inching toward reality,” State Senator Gary Forby (D-Benton) said. “These young men and women in our community are seeking a hand up, not a hand out. Governor Rauner is cheating our future leaders out of rewarding careers that will stimulate our economy.”

Every year, thousands of Illinois students take advantage of this vital state funding to help pay for the opportunity to receive a higher education. As college costs continue to skyrocket in Illinois, these grants are vital to the sustainability of many students’ college careers.

"We tell students from kindergarten on to study hard and get good grades so they can go to college," McGuire said. "We're hypocrites if we then allow the governor to pull the financial aid rug out from under them."

The Senate did pass funding for the state’s financial student assistance program, the Monetary Award Program (MAP). However, the House has yet to approve the funding.

This is the third hearing of a series of four held throughout the state. The final hearing will be on Monday, October 5 at Eastern Illinois University.

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