Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon talks about college affordability at UIS


Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon met with students, administrators, and faculty/staff at the University of Illinois Springfield on October 23, 2012 as part of her statewide College Affordability Summit.

Simon, who serves as the Governor’s point person on education reform, met with a group of UIS students who explained how they use federal work study and state grants to cover costs. Simon wants to maximize the use of state and federal funds to support higher education.

“It’s a tough request, particularly in a era when the state has zero extra money to be spending, so we have to be really careful about how we use our resources,” said Simon.

Nekira Cooper, a UIS sophomore studying criminal justice, receives the MAP grant, Pell grant, private scholarships, loans, federal work study and works off campus on the weekends to pay for college. Despite the challenges in piecing together college financing, Cooper remains positive and looks forward to joining the Air Force as an officer upon graduation.

“I grew up in a neighborhood where college wasn’t on anyone’s mind,” said Cooper, the first in her family to enroll in college. “I’ve stayed focused and kept my grades up – sometimes I can’t believe I made it to college.”

With cooperation from state, federal and higher education leaders, Simon believes increased transparency, targeted state aid and a permanent federal tax credit for middle class families would make college more affordable for Illinois students.

“As a state, we want to increase the proportion of working-age adults with a college degree or credential to 60 percent, up from 41 percent, by 2025. The only way we can achieve this goal is if college is affordable,” said Simon.

UIS is Simon’s sixth stop as she seeks to hold an affordability summit at each of the state’s public universities this fall.

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