Access Illinois ups aid goals

As state support for the University dwindles, a focus on scholarships has quickly risen to the forefront of University fundraising initiatives. Access Illinois, a three-year extension to the Brilliant Futures Campaign which will be ending Dec. 31, will seek to raise $100 million for the sake of providing scholarships to deserving students that aren’t financially capable of otherwise attending the University. Although the Brilliant Futures Campaign has already accomplished its goal of $2.25 billion over its eight-year period, concern has risen over whether the money is actually available to assist lower income students.

“Many of the dollars from the Brilliant Futures Campaign are commitments,” said Dan Mann, director of Student Financial Aid. “These aren’t current-use dollars, so for some amounts we’ll have to wait to receive rather than immediately using it for different purposes.”

Illinois government’s presence is becoming less and less apparent with the University’s financing, being that Illinois owed the University $311 million on last year’s budget as of Sept. 16, according to University President Michael Hogan.

“We have no plans on putting our campaign to rest; our financial picture is better than what I could’ve hope for a year ago, but we’re far from out of the woods,” Hogan said at the annual meeting of the University of Illinois Foundation on Sept. 23.

The University’s role in assisting its own students’ needs has already seen its obstacles. Mann said $75 million of financial aid to students in the form of scholarships was not met due to budget shortfalls.

As a result, more financial aid will be received from the University of Illinois Foundation. Access Illinois will provide strictly current-use dollars in order for scholarships to quickly be granted rather than having to wait for money to be made available. The scholarship’s funds will mainly consist of donations from alumni and other supporters and is led by the foundation.

“We think it’s a fantastic initiative,” said Don Kojich, vice president of marketing and communications for the foundation. “The foundation is very supportive of it. It’s an investment into the future … and we’ve identified this as a priority.”

With the initiative aiming towards a quicker approach to providing scholarships, the program will seek the same success as the Brilliant Futures Campaign. Although concern has been shown over whether too much reliance will be on donations, some have expressed that the initiative could be making up for lost ground in the past.

“We need a more balanced approach to this in regards to donations and federal dollars,” Mann said. “Yet we’ve been behind in comparison to other schools we like to compare ourselves to. So you could say that we’re catching up to them with more help from the foundation.”