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.