MAP Grants, State Funding Top Senate Hearing in Carterville
Leaders from colleges and universities across southern Illinois spent Thursday telling state lawmakers just what it's like to live without state money - and the uncertainty about whether any will arrive this year.
John A. Logan College Vice President Larry Peterson says state funding - including MAP Grants for low income students - must come through soon.
It is critical to our students that this MAP money be released. ~JALC VP Larry Peterson
"It is critical to our students that this MAP money be released. It is critical to the operation of this college, the base operation of the college, that a budget be reached and that we receive our base operation grants and equalization grant."
Peterson spoke to an Illinois Senate Committee Hearing on higher education funding. He and other community college leaders say it's only a matter of time before the schools are not able to keep operating.
Ja'Mia Purdiman is a MAP Grant student. She says the money is not just a hand out - it's a start for students to build their future.
"They could end up owning their own business - which is what I want to do. So that will bring jobs and more money into the economy. This investment is one that will help, not just now - so don't look at it as something that is an expense now - but something that can be an investment."
Thousands of students in southern Illinois are hanging in limbo, not knowing whether their promised MAP Grant money will come through. Many schools are floating the cash this semester, but say it'll have to come from somewhere by the time the Spring semester rolls around.
SIU President Randy Dunn says the school has already made millions of dollars in cuts - and the prospect of not having a state budget for several more months only makes things harder.
"And this is where we come to that crisis period, where to keep doing that and keep doing it is going to get ever more difficult - and it's going to change the face of what we do as the public universities of this state. And once that's lost, we'll never get it back."
Rend Lake College President Terry Wilkerson agrees - he says there comes a point of no return when you talk about eliminating programs and services.
"I would tell you that we're entering the time of flipping switches of a self-destruct sequence. We can make it FY 16, but we will be crippled, hobbled, and we will not be what we are."
Senators heard testimony from students, faculty, and administrators as they detailed MAP Grants being held up - thousands of students are waiting for thousands of dollars in promised money.
The panel says they hope to have a budget sooner rather than later, but admit the ongoing stalemate between legislative leaders and Gov. Bruce Rauner appears no closer to reaching compromise.