For those of us who live in Illinois, we are in pain every time we think about politics. There are long historical reasons for this — and contemporary realities as well, both in Chicago and at the state level. This year, like Pennsylvania, we are a state that is more than half way into a fiscal year without a budget.
This is bad. This is bad for all sorts of reasons. And, I do have sympathy with all involved insofar as budget balancing is a large part of the job of a college president. It is not easy, and in Illinois the problems are neither new nor simply solved.
But — and though I know about the important improvisation guideline “Yes, and” I am going with BUT here: the absence of a budget means that higher education is in difficulty. Most particularly, the failure to fund MAP (monetary Award program) grants is hurting individuals who are most in need and institutions in serious ways. Those institutions that were able “fronted” the dollars to students for the fall, in the absence of a budget and a pay out. Many cannot afford to do so for the second semester. So, not only are we failing students whose lives we believe higher education can transform because they are needy, but we are failing all students in Illinois. And this is not even to mention the wider economic impact of higher education across our state and in both our large and small municipalities. Across the state somewhere near 130,000 students receive MAP grants. Chicago educates over 200,000 students. These numbers should tell you something about the scale of the problem.
So: write your legislator and remind him or her that their education contributed to the public good and so, too, will the education of today’s college and university students. If we continue to fail to support them, we will continue to fail our future.
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