Most colleges covering, for now, grants state fails to pay

 
and Mary Hansen
 
Updated 1/20/2016 11:32 AM
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  • The College of Lake County will cover Monetary Award Program scholarships for students, but officials are considering a tuition increase to make up for the state's lack of funding.

    The College of Lake County will cover Monetary Award Program scholarships for students, but officials are considering a tuition increase to make up for the state's lack of funding. Gilbert R. Boucher II / 2012

Most suburban community colleges will float students money for grants that are tied up in Illinois' budget standoff, but at least one college says it's considering a tuition increase to help make up for a lack of state funding.

"We weren't going to raise tuition much at all," College of Lake County President Jerry Weber said.

But with the state not sending the college any money since July 1 and not paying for its Monetary Award Program scholarships, CLC might have to alter its budget planning for next year, Weber said.

The college might switch from considering a hike of $3 per credit hour or less to an increase of $6 to $9 per credit hour, he said.

Like CLC, other suburban colleges say they'll cover students' state MAP grants again this semester in the hope the state eventually will pay up.

The Oakton Community College Education Foundation is covering the $350,000 costs of the MAP grants for qualifying students this semester at the Des Plaines college.

"These are among our most financially needy students, and without the MAP funding, they would likely not be able to enroll in the spring," Oakton President Joianne L. Smith said in an email to the campus before the semester began.

Officials from Harper College in Palatine also said it will cover the MAP scholarships.

But McHenry County College did not cover the grants for the fall semester and is not doing so for the 265 students who qualify for state aid in the spring semester, either.

Most of those students don't rely on the state-funded grants as their only source of financial aid, said Leana Davis, director of financial aid. Financial aid counselors encouraged students to apply for other scholarships and explore other funding.

Elgin Community College plans to continue funding MAP grants for the spring semester, but that's pending approval from its board of directors, said Heather Scholl, controller for the college.

Around 1,000 students received the money last semester, costing the school $402,500. The cost for the spring will be about the same. The 8,300-student college has attempted to cut costs to fill the $5.6 million gap left by the state budget impasse by instituting a hiring freeze and restricting travel for staff members.

"Anything that comes up that's not needed immediately, if we can defer cost and wait, we will," Scholl said. "Our intention is to not affect students in our decisions."

The effects of the ongoing budget fight have been more serious at other institutions. Chicago State University, for example, has warned it might cease operations by March 1.

The Associated Press reported last week that 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 those responding to a survey about the Monetary Award Program say they can't do it again this spring.

Of 31 that indicated to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission 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 making students pay in such a case.

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