Date: 15 September 2019
To: John Smithson
RE: The Unjust Burden of Cuts to Low-Income Tuition Grant Programs
objective of this memorandum is to highlight the plight of lower-income
students bearing the unjust burden of pursuing higher education without a
grant. Typically, college grants are offered to eligible candidates as a form
of financial assistance and do not require repayment. Nevertheless, fiscal
deadlocks such as those witnessed in both houses of the Illinois General
Assembly have recently taken a toll on university programs and impacted heavily
on populations from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
Issue Represented in the Case
Sarah Brown’s case study investigates the
infamous “Illinois Budget Impasse” and the subsequent air of
uncertainty it caused for public colleges. The quest for expansion and growth
in the American higher education structure has, over the past century, seen the
ceding of considerable power to states regarding their responsibility in
various levels of education (Bastedo, Altbach, & Gumport, 2016, p. 114). It
is this arrangement that resulted in grueling months of adversity for public
colleges in the State of Illinois. A stalemate between Democratic and
Republican lawmakers since July 1, 2015, led to bitter disagreements between
the two long-term adversaries that resulted in GOP Governor Bruce Rauner
refusing to approve any budget that did not display a level of austerity. The
higher education sector was hit hard by these spending cuts and had to endure
extended periods without state funding.
Most colleges had to adjust to these emerging set of circumstances,
discontinuing their support for low-income grant tuition programs such as the
Monetary Award Program (MAP) which was previously funded by the state.
Why Cuts to Low-Income Tuition Grants Is an Issue
on low-income tuition grants often mean that collages are now forced to
shoulder this burden. The main reason for this unique measure is often because
a large majority of these students have exceptional academic credentials and
seen as an asset for the institutions. However, colleges usually operated on a
tight budget. Many of those eligible for financial aid end up missing out which
now places the burden of paying for their tuition expenses squarely on their
shoulders. Students from low-income families are therefore more likely to seek
loans and consequently sink in debt while attempting to foot college-related
The alarming college dropout rate in the State
of Illinois is also as a result of the cuts to low-income tuition grants.
Stopgap measures were initially inaugurated by the state as a measure that aimed
to provide temporary relief for students who previously received the Monetary
Award Program (MAP) grants. Nevertheless, this funding was nowhere near the
amount collages were used to receiving. Lower-income students now had to
grapple with an ever-rising tuition fee in addition to exorbitant boarding
expenses. Dropping out thus became inevitable with many opting to seek gainful
employment as a way of making ends meet.
A Critique of the Campus Response to the Issue
In the wake of the budget stalemate in the
State of Illinois, campuses became proactive and made difficult decisions that
would make it possible for them to function in the prevailing conditions.
Community colleges often operate on a limited budget and it is, therefore,
reasonable that most of them discontinued their low-income grant programs. The
state is usually responsible for funding such programs, but the absence of this
financial support meant that low-income students would inevitably drop out.
is also commendable that colleges such as the University of Illinois weathered
this financial storm by developing systems that would serve them in the event
of such an eventuality. The university ensured that it developed a close
relationship with benefactors in the education sector as a contingency measure.
In particular, Urbana-Champaign and the University of Illinois at Chicago
campuses had developed an elaborate system of multiple funding sources which
kept them afloat (Brown, 2017). Similarly, Kankakee had to resort to
extraordinary measures to keep low-income students in school by closing
shuttered centers and instituting staff furloughs before channeling these funds
to educational activities.
Universities need to acknowledge the active
role they play in the lives of needy students and the effects of legislative
dysfunctions on their education. Organizational learning requires making sense
of complex systems and models to create value (Bolman & Deal, 2013, p. 32).
The university system must, therefore, reexamine the relationship they have
with the state. A viable recommendation to this end is an improved and clear
university-legislative relationship. By so doing, colleges will always be
assured of state-funding for low-income tuition grant programs, avoiding
Passing policy that assures eligible
low-income students of tuition grants is a feasible option. Universities are
expected to demonstrate a level of faculty involvement in various aspects of
university life (Lombardi, 2013, p. 156). Low-income tuition grants such as the
Monetary Award Program (MAP) target eligible candidates demonstrating financial
necessity based on information provided regarding their socio-economic
background. These grants go to various mandatory college fees and tuition fees.
Additionally, some may even go as far as covering books and housing which are
paid directly to the college during enrolment.
creation of performance goals is also an important part of instituting lasting
change. Critical areas such as student retention and graduation would make
certain that faculty members are involved in such matters, dedicating their
lives towards this particular objective. Moreover, they would now have an
opportunity to focus on recruiting students from underrepresented populations
while limiting future tuition increases.
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