WSIL – The state Capitol in Springfield heard an earful on Wednesday when a few statewide organizations pleaded again for lawmakers to fund higher education.
Primary and secondary education received a funding bill months ago, but nothing has happened for post-secondary education. The schools are not getting any funding, and the students are being left out in the cold, too.
Tuesday marked the beginning of the Spring semester for many Illinois institutions, but it also marked the beginning of a second semester without funding.
All of the organizations keep pointing to MAP grants, or the Monetary Award Program, as the first thing they need funded, because it’s preventing current and potential students from attending school.
“To think that there’s not going to be a set of students that’s not going to be able to go to universities, that won’t apply, that isn’t going to feel confident on their ability to pay for these universities just due to the stalemate and gridlock here in Springfield is –it’s really disconcerting,” said Brandon Hudspeth, a student at the University of Illinois.
Locally, Southern Illinois University has fronted the money for their students in hopes the state will eventually pay them back. But SIU is likely they only school in the whole area doing that.
Statewide, it is happening at a lot of places, said Michael McDermott, the director of higher education with the Illinois Education Association.
But he said that cannot last for long.
“Although most higher education institutions funded the MAP grants for the spring semester of 2015, at least as many as half of them have said that they cannot continue to do that for fall of 2016,” McDermott said.
He said unless legislators gets a state budget for Fiscal Year 2017 accomplished in a timely manner, schools will have this problem all over again despite a possible Fiscal Year 2016 budget or an appropriations bill.
Southeastern Illinois College in Harrisburg said they have about 300 students who receive the MAP grants, and they are not helping the students out with them.
The school has problems itself. It has not seen any aid from the state in seven months. So Tuesday night, the school board had to discuss things like higher tuition, higher fees and where they can cut costs.