Editorial: Stop-gap MAP Grant legislation not enough

Bravo, Illinois state legislature! You did 45 percent of your job.

After a long year of diligent work by lawmakers in Springfield, $600 million of state funding was approved by the legislature on Friday to aid nine state universities — a majority of the funding will primarily be used to provide MAP grants to low-income students.

Congratulations. You did what you were supposed to do nearly a year ago. You provided relief to so many students across the state who were worried about how they were going to pay for their higher education. Now, these students can relax, knowing that all is well.

Well, not quite.

Sure, the new budget will put some at ease, but the damage of the legislature’s inability to put together a budget up to this point has already been done. Illinois is the only state in the Union that hasn’t passed a state budget and people are watching, especially students.

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    High school students who are considering where they want to go to college see what’s going on in their state. Schools like Eastern Illinois and Chicago State will suffer because of the state’s lack of action. In February, Chicago State sent layoff notices to 900 employees. Even if full funding was approved on Friday — which it was not — most of those employees have probably found other jobs. And those who haven’t would probably not be confident in returning to the school, or any state job for that matter.

    Why would a student choose to go to either of those schools when they don’t know what the school’s future will hold in the next year? Maybe those billboards down I-57 do make sense — maybe Indiana is a better option.

    With the current funding, 5,667 students on the Urbana campus have peace of mind knowing they won’t need to pay back the MAP grants they received for the 2015-2016 school year. And we’re happy for them. But what about the next year? And what about the University employees who could potentially be laid off in August?

    Though the University finally received a little of what it expected, it’s not enough to keep things running smoothly. President Timothy Killeen said the $180 million that will be allocated to the University is “insufficient,” as the University received $647 million in funding for fiscal year 2015.

    Nearly 11 months into the fiscal year, the state government has still not completely fulfilled one of its main obligations.

    So congrats on your great work. Here’s to another year of stalemates and half-measures.