Senate Approves Aid For Low-Income College Students

Aug 19, 2015

Among the casualties of the Illinois budget impasse are grants that help low-income students pay for college. On Wednesday, Democrats in the state Senate voted to address that.

Thousands of students take advantage of the so-called MAP grants to attend everything from community colleges to the U. of I.

Randy Dunn, the president of Southern Illinois University, says two-thirds of students at the Carbondale campus get help from the program.

"The average award for our students is significant," Dunn told a Senate committee. "This is not something that's chicken feed."

Dunn says SIU and other state schools will let students attend for the fall semester as though the MAP program had full funding. But he says if the state doesn't come through with a budget soon, the students will have to make up the missing tuition before they can register for the spring semester.

Republicans said that means the funding issue is not urgent, but Democrats were unpersuaded, passing the measure without any Republican votes.

"What we're going to end up doing is, quite frankly, pricing students who are just as academically intelligent as other students, we're going to price them out of the American dream," said Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Democrat from Park Ridge.

Although Gov. Bruce Rauner approved the state's K-12 education budget argued in court that state workers should get paid during the impasse, he now says he'd rather see a comprehensive budget deal than approve additional individual programs.