Rauner chooses lottery winners over students

Illinois has been without a functioning state budget since July 1, 2015, and as a result, many state-funded program recipients have suffered.

One such program is the Monetary Award Program, which provides grants for Illinois residents who demonstrate financial need and are attending Illinois-approved colleges, according to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

These students have been unable to receive the grants they were promised, which led Illinois Democrats to pass legislation Jan. 28 that would pay for students’ grants, according to a Jan. 28 Chicago Tribune article. 

Such a move from the Illinois legislature is not unprecedented. After all, the state was able to push through legislation to pay Illinois lottery winners despite its budget crisis, according to a Jan. 21 CNN Money article.

However, it appears unlikely the state will pay for MAP grants because Gov. Bruce Rauner has promised he will veto the legislation when it arrives at his desk, the Tribune article stated.

Aside from insulting higher education and its value, the proposed veto is made incredibly ironic in that the Illinois Lottery is a large contributor to Illinois’ Common Schools Fund, according to the Illinois State Lottery’s website.

Because of the state’s failure to fund MAP grants for the 2015–2016 academic year, Illinois colleges have begun addressing the issue of MAP grant funding on their own.

The University of Illinois will cover the cost of students’ MAP grants, according to a Jan. 22 article from The Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette. Smaller colleges, like the College of Lake County and Oakton Community College, are also covering MAP grant costs. Colleges will be seeking reimbursement from the state, but several said they will seek reimbursement from students if the state does not reimburse them, according to a Jan. 20 Daily Herald article. 

On Feb. 10, Columbia emailed students who normally receive MAP grants, announcing that the college will disburse grants for the 2015-–2016 academic year to students who usually receive them.

While this step is appreciated by students who rely on MAP grant funding to attend college, Columbia should not have to bear the burden of the state’s financial obligations, especially when the college is combating declining enrollment and reduced income.

It is unfair that colleges have to take on this added financial burden to keep students at their schools, especially when it is uncertain whether colleges will be reimbursed when the state has a functioning budget again.

Although some colleges can afford to pay for MAP grants, others do not have the financial capability to do so. 

Many students can’t afford to attend college without MAP grants, but it is unrealistic to expect colleges that already face financial challenges to subsidize these students indefinitely. 

While students have advocated for MAP grant funding for months, colleges are now likely to enter the fray with their political and lobbying power. They will probably come to the forefront and be more aggressive in the fight to get state MAP grant funding again. 

Lobbying power behind the fight for MAP grant funding might lead to a solution in the near future, but Rauner’s behavior in this situation shows his pattern of neglect for higher education and education in general. An investment in higher education is an investment in the future, and through his lack of support for it, Rauner shows that he is not truly considering the future of Illinois or its citizens. 

When Illinois college students have a better chance of getting money to pay tuition through the lottery than through a state-guaranteed grant program, it is clear that state priorities are out of whack. Rauner has failed Illinois college students and seemingly does not value higher education or see it as a priority for Illinois.