SPRINGFIELD -- Many Illinois college students will remain without state help paying their tuition bills for the spring semester next year, even though lawmakers finalized a state budget last week.
Grants through the Monetary Award Program are given to Illinois students based on their financial needs. The MAP program will operate as usual for the upcoming fall semester.
But the state budget as approved will mean no grants at all for the spring semester, said Andrew Davis, executive director of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.
"No one should assume there's a solution for second semester," Davis said.
It's another result of a state budget lawmakers approved knowing cuts would be coming. Gov. Pat Quinn wanted an increase in the state's income tax rate to avoid deep cuts. But he failed to get enough support.
Now, Davis said, he will join other groups that rely on state funding in asking lawmakers for more money in the fall or early next year, in hopes new taxes or another solution can create more money.
"The reality of this budget is it kicks the problem down the block a couple of months," Davis said.
The state did come up with money to pay for more specific state grant programs that help some top students who plan to become teachers or nurses. An original plan approved by lawmakers would have cut similar programs.
Critics have said cuts to MAP grants could mean students will be faced with more debt, or with the choice to drop out of school altogether.
Individual universities try to pick up some of the slack. Last year, Illinois State University chipped in $5 million of financial aid, and spokesman Jay Groves said they'll do so again this year.
Still, the budget would leave $7 million more needed for students who qualify for the MAP program, he said.
"That is the most important thing to the poorest students in Illinois," Groves said.
The state has information about financial aid at www.collegezone.com.