SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WRSP) -- With a full state budget now in place, many state programs, higher education institutions, and social services are slowly starting to see state funds. Universities were among the hardest hit by the budget crisis. Most were forced to make budget cuts, drop programs, and some faced losing accreditation.
During the impasse, Illinois stopped funding MAP grants, which provide assistance to thousands of the state's neediest students for college, but that funding is back and students throughout Illinois are relieved. Though students at the University of Illinois in Springfield still received funding because UIS fronted that cost for students, that was only a short-term fix.
"Affordability is always an issue," UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said. "Every year we have students who struggle paying for college."
Roughly 800 students at UIS rely on map grants; that's about $2.5 million each academic year. That's a hefty burden shouldered by UIS when that funding was eliminated due to budget uncertainty despite being owed millions of dollars by the state.
"We fronted the MAP money for several years to make sure that regardless of what the state does, our students will be able to attend school," Chancellor Koch said.
At UIS, an individual student receives, on average, over $3,000 per year from MAP grants. With the rising cost of education, any at-risk funding creates a stressful situation for students.
"That stability was starting to fade," said Navi Fields, a junior at UIS. "I was starting to pay more and I was starting to put more pressure on myself as far as having to pay because I didn't want to put it all on my mom, so I was starting to stress."
UIS says they've been fronting MAP grant funding for three years and would have done so for as long as possible. Still, when the budget was finally passed administration and students say there was a collective sigh of relief.
"It's just a sense of stability," said Danielle Woodson, a sophomore at UIS. "It's nice knowing that you don't have to worry about coming up with the extra money especially for low-income families."
The state is paying for this year and last year's map grant funding and all previous years have been back paid.