Simon stops at UI to stress college affordability

URBANA — As part of her tour of college campuses around the state this fall, Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon stopped by the University of Illinois on Wednesday to hear from students and deliver the message that college affordability should be a priority.

Simon met with elected student leaders and administrators and even pitched in to help one university student employee make pizzas in the dining hall of Ikenberry Commons.

The mother of two children, including a daughter attending the University of Illinois, Simon said, "Even with two incomes it can be hard to put (the money) together," to pay for college.

"I think it's a great thing she's here talking with us. A lot of people higher up in politics don't take the time to do this," said Fai Thompson, a UI sophomore who works the maximum of 20 hours per week under the federal work-study program to help pay for college while she juggles a course load of 19 credit hours.

Simon is part of a statewide task force looking into the state-funded Monetary Assistance Program, or MAP, which gives free money to students who demonstrate a financial need and are attending approved Illinois colleges and universities. In recent years, the state has not been able to meet the need of all those who are eligible. MAP grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, and many students who struggle to coordinate with their families on getting the paperwork finalized may lose out on the grants, she said.

The task force has been asked by the General Assembly also to consider ways of improving the educational outcomes of MAP recipients so they not only enroll in a college but graduate. Its report is expected to be delivered to the Legislature in January.

Simon said she also supports House Bill 5248, which is currently in the House Rules Committee. The bill proposes that Illinois colleges and universities publish online College Choice Reports, which would clearly disclose the cost of attending the college or university.

She said the label would include information that colleges and universities already gather so it would not require more work for the institutions to gather the data.

Simon said she hoped the bill would gain some traction in the upcoming veto session, and if then, in the spring.

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Sid Saltfork wrote on October 25, 2012 at 10:10 am

It would be great if the state universities published employment outcomes by majors along with the costs.  The student debt crisis is real.  It is the next big national issue.  Should student debt be forgiven?  Should student debt be reduced by payment over 10 years with the balance after that time forgiven?  Everytime I hear a student complaining about their, and family's student debt; I wonder what they are majoring in.  I cannot feel sympathy for poor decisions.  I cannot be agreeable to have governmental financial forgiveness for poor decisions.  Should an Engineering major's debt be forgiven with the government paying it off?  Should a Dance major's debt be forgiven with the government paying it off?  Parents, and students chose their majors.  They chose their debt.  There is a need for occupational information to be provided to them before they make their decisions.  They need to know how many graduates in their major obtained employment in their field.  They need to know the average national, state, and local pay for the employment.  They need to know accurate trends in the fields of employment.  The information is already available; but it requires researching it.  Put it all in one with the costs.  Every parent wants their child to attend college for a better economic future.  However; little thought goes into the abilities, and skills of the young person.  Too many think "Go to college, and find yourself".

The most immediate way to reduce the cost of tuition is to quit paying the huge administrative salaries; and paying off administrators involved in scandals. 

dd1961 wrote on October 25, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Sid, are you saying that kids should go into the sciences and math?  What if they do not have an aptitude for that.  I do think it should be clear to them what their outcome is and counsel them, but if they are not good at math and science, it will do no good for them to struggle through college in those majors that require them to be.

I see such a deemphasis on trades.  It does seem kids are discouraged from taking a trade and encouraged to go to college.  Maybe that needs to be looked at more closely.

 

Sid Saltfork wrote on October 25, 2012 at 7:10 pm

No, I am not saying that kids should go into the sciences and math.  As you stated, not all of them have the aptitudes to do so.  More emphasis should be put on occupational counseling in the secondary schools.  Some trades offer better employment options with better pay than some college majors.  Germany, and other European countries put educational emphasis on apprenticeships.  Crane operators in European ports start with internships as do other occupations.  My point is that students, and parents should know the occupational information pertaining to educational majors prior to enrolling in universities, colleges, and technical schools.  The information is there.  The educational programs should indicate the cost of training as well as the employment outcomes following completion of training.  How many Massage Therapists, Writers, Dancers, Actors, Engineers, Teachers, and other occupations are viable in a five year projection of occupational trends?  When an occupation is in demand, it becomes saturated with graduates in a period of time.  How many Attorneys are struggling in employment?  How many Teachers will be needed within the next five years?  How many Automotive Technicians, etc.?  The information is there; but it is not provided to students, and families.  Students, and parents choose the training options.  They, also, choose the student debt they incur.  I do not feel that it is your, or my responsibility to bail them out of debt with governmental forgiveness.  They are entitled to know what they are getting into; but they should be responsible for their decisions.

How much money is wasted on MAP Grants that the state provides?  If Johnny wants to be an Engineer; but his math skills are almost nonexistent; should he be provided with governmental money to pursue his dream of being an Engineer?  If governmental money is to be given out, or used to underwrite student loans; it should be looked at as an investment with reasonable criteria applied to insure a successful outcome.