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Students Struggling to Pay for College Without State Support


More than 150,000 college students were left without financial help this spring when Illinois ran out of money for MAP Grants. For some students, MAP Grantsare the only thing keeping them in school.

Illinois Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon is visiting the state’s public universities, urging officials to “keep college affordable.” In Springfield Tuesday, she met a student whose college career depends on precarious state support.

Like many college students, Nekira Cooper keeps a busy schedule:

"It is weekends – Friday, Saturday and Sunday – and the financial aid office is from Monday through Thursday.” - Nekira Cooper, college student

 But that’s not her academic or social calendar – it’s her work schedule:

“At least 25 hours a week at Walgreens, and then 13 hours here at [the] financial aid office.” - Nekira Cooper

 Cooper is a first-generation college student. She’s studying criminal justice at the University of Illinois Springfield, and wants to become an Air Force officer when she graduates.Despite her full-time-equivalent work schedule, Cooper says she also depends on Illinois’ Monetary Assistance Program, or MAP, which provides financial aid grants to low-income students.

The program ran out of money in March last spring, leaving about 150,000 students … half of all who applied … without help. 

That number could grow – this year’s state budget cuts money for the grants by 14%.

Illinois Public Radio's Brian Mackey contributed to this report