DISCLAIMER: I’m an out of state student.
When I first arrived on Illinois College campus, I never imagined that I would be a part of two protests during my first two years here. However, two weeks ago, I checked off rally number two. Thanks to the Illinois College Leadership Program, I was able to attend a rally that was comprised of college students from all over the state of Illinois, as well as state representatives and Union members. When we arrived at the state capital on that drizzly day, I had no idea the impact that the rally would have on the inactive state government, as well as the students who attended it.
Illinois has been operating without a state budget for ten months. Hundreds of programs and organizations are functioning without funding as Springfield sits on their money. However, one of the more notable issues that has arisen from this inactivity is funding the MAP grant. I personally, do not receive the MAP grant, so at first I did not care. However, after hearing about what all the map grant does for IC and its faculty, staff, and students that chose this school, I knew I had to help. Attending college and being able to afford it are one of the biggest issues facing our generation. A college educated population is a smart population and by not funding that, Illinois is shooting itself in the foot. One of the speakers at the rally spoke of how revenue college students generate in Illinois. If Illinois does not fund the grants, it loses even more money than the state did not previously have. Students will look out of state for colleges, increasing the amount of people who are already fleeing the land of Lincoln. Students who are in state students, who are staring uncertainty and inactivity in the face flocked to Springfield to the Save Higher Education Rally. Students from public universities, private colleges, and community colleges attended and spoke, begging Governor Rauner and the house to pass something. A few of the speakers even reminded the house and the governor that if they attended school in Illinois, they probably received the MAP grant, too.
But the hardest part of this rally was when a student from Eastern Illinois University came to the podium and spoke. She told the assembled crowd that EIU was only able to send three students to the rally because the school had to freeze and stop their entire travel budget. One of the many schools that is feeling the great lack of funding could not send students to this rally because they could not afford it. I was so mad at Rauner, and I’m not even from this state. At the end of the rally, I hoped that Rauner was listening to us. Here were hundreds of angry and maybe even scared students, and we were demanding action. Many students went to the capitol building after the rally to lobby and protest outside the house chambers.
I think the biggest thing Rauner is forgetting, as well as the other elective representatives is that those students at the rally are probably registered voters. We have grown up in an era of just weird politics, and we are tired of games and “politics as usual”. These are our lives and many other hundreds of workers, faculty and staff that are on the line. Since the rally, the Illinois State government has passed a bill that funds the MAP grant for a semester, but the damage is already done. Schools are looking at closing their doors, and jobs have been lost. We can only hope that the government sees the damage it has done to the state they were voted to protect and never lets this happen again.
But then again, it is Illinois.