MAPSPRINGFIELD—Students from Richland Community College, Carlinville and across Illinois rallied at the Capitol to call for state financial aid and university funding Tuesday.

Illinois has entered its fourth month with no budget to operate public universities or fund the state’s program that helps students afford college. The Monetary Award Program is the state’s college affordability program that helps roughly 140,000 Illinois students attend college.

Donnie Lewis was among the students at the Capitol asking lawmakers to reinstate MAP and college funding. Lewis is a student trustee at Richland, finishing his associates. He receives MAP funding as part of his financial aid package. Lewis also serves as legislative chairman of the Illinois Community College Board.

“I know there [are] road blocks in the way, but I’m just asking everyone to try and come together, see the light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s get something done so we can get everybody back to school,” Lewis said.

Catie Witt was also among the student leaders. Witt— a Carlinville native—is a junior at Eastern Illinois University. She receives MAP funding as part of his/her financial aid package. Witt also serves as EIU’s student trustee.

“I’m a first generation student so a map grant is really important to me and without it I don’t think I’d be able to go to a university like Eastern. It’s not just affecting Eastern or Western or U of I. It’s affecting the whole state. I think lawmakers know that it is important but we want to make sure we’re showing our face and leaving our pawprint,” Witt said.

State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) supports authorizing MAP and has voted twice this year to fund the program.

“The state made a promise to these students. They signed up for classes believing that they would receive this money, and the state has turned its back on them. We shouldn’t let political disputes get in the way of the career path they have chosen,” Manar said.

The students held a rally at the Capitol before meeting with Manar and other lawmakers.

“MAP is one of the best investments we can make in our economy. Today, they’ve taken an important step by coming and making their voices heard. Governor Rauner needs to understand how real this impact is,” Manar said.

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