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2016 February 5 - 01:34 pm

Half of Ill. Colleges To Stop Filling Gaps in Grant Program

Budget Stalemate Has Colleges Scrambling To Provide Student Aid

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois colleges put up $168 million of their own money to help students attend classes last fall because there’s no state budget deal, but nearly half of those responding to a survey about the Monetary Award Program say they can’t do it again this spring.

The deadlock over the spending plan that should have taken effect July 1 will force needy college students to make some tough choices, the survey released by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission indicates.

The commission, a clearinghouse for student aid, surveyed 133 colleges and universities, receiving 84 replies. They showed 41 schools would not carry the MAP load for students again this spring and about a dozen more haven’t decided.

The popular, bipartisan MAP provided income-based grants totaling $373 million last school year. Although there wasn’t a budget agreement when classes began again in August, three in five fronted the money out of reserves because state reimbursement typically doesn’t arrive until December.

Of 31 that indicated to ISAC they would continue upfront spring payments, several said they’d pursue reimbursement from students if the state doesn’t come through; half said they were undecided on

T O U G H C H O I C E S

The budget deadlock is forcing needy college students to make some tough choices, according to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

making students pay in such a case.

“It’s obviously a serious situation,” said Pat McGuire, a Joliet Democrat who heads the Senate Higher Education Committee. At his request, ISAC reported that schools statewide had provided $168 million of their own money for the fall semester. He told The Associated Press last month several educators had asked him to pursue at least partial reimbursement.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has resisted the idea because he opposes “piece-meal” approaches to concluding a budget deal without fundamental businessclimate and political changes he seeks.

Overall, the survey found 58 percent of respondents credited MAP grants for the first semester.

The six public universities that

responded to the survey all fronted the money in the fall and will continue to. Just one in five community-college respondents said it would continue paying this spring. Those include the 8,300-student Elgin Community College, where administrators plan to seek board approval to use reserves for spring MAP money, according to Sharon Konny, vice president for business and finance.

At Lewis and Clark Community College, a school of 13,000 students in Godfrey, 40 miles north of St. Louis, president Dale Chapman is taking a different route. Unable to tap reserves again, the school’s nonprofit foundation will cover the $327,000 cost for 420 students to study through May.

“We’re in new territory here, as everyone in the state’s aware,” Chapman said.

“Community colleges don’t have the kind of reserves the other institutions have, but we decided we were going to meet our moral obligations to our students despite the current impasse.”

Contact Political Writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/john-oconnor.

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