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To the editor:
When the state budget stalemate is finally
resolved, we must unite behind one message: Never again can we let
students become collateral damage in political fights.
It may sound like a cliché to say that our children are our future.
But in the case of higher education, it is quite literally true. If
we do not tend to the education of the next generation, we have no
future. The blunt economic facts of higher education bear that out.
A federal National Center for Education Statistics study found the
median earnings for young adults aged 25 to 34 with a bachelor’s
degree is $48,500 -- $18,000 more than those with a high school
diploma, and more than double what those who do not graduate from
high school earn.
The students need the opportunity of our campuses. We need their tax
dollars spreading in our local and state economies. They fuel our
economic centers, providing and supporting jobs and creating
opportunities for all Illinoisans.
The higher education funding stalemate is much more costly than lost
opportunities. Data shows high school graduates under age 25 are
three times more likely to be unemployed than their college educated
peers – a trend that follows them throughout their lives. Taxpayers
pay unemployment costs: the Congressional Budget Office
conservatively puts those costs at a staggering more than half a
trillion dollars over the past five years.
Colleges have had to adapt to the reality that graduation is a
tenuous proposition. Completion rates are declining. Any
interruption of the college education can doom the completion
chances, particularly for lower-income, working students supported
by the state’s Monetary Award Program grant funding.
For more than 150 years, Lincoln College has focused on these
students. The institution was founded to provide a college education
to central Illinois students whose parents could not send them
across the country to East Coast schools. Today, we continue to
serve those students and others seeking an affordable opportunity to
go to college.
[to top of second column in this letter]
A sustainable MAP program is vital to Lincoln College’s success, as
we move to becoming a university with many exciting four-year and
advanced degree programs and offer a more complete educational
experience. About 80 percent of our full-time students, and
two-thirds of all of our students, qualify for MAP grants. MAP
funding is an important safety net shoring up the connection between
our educational offerings and many of our students.
The MAP crisis is hitting our campus this semester, as we have had
to make the painful decision to cut by 40 percent the MAP grant
funding we have to date covered for our students. We will restore
the MAP grants to full funding here as soon as there is a budget
resolution, because we know the difficult situation this will create
for many of our students and their families.
We cannot minimize the impact on older students, a key part of the
educational mission at Lincoln College through the successful and
growing Accelerated Bridge to Education (ABE) program. These older
students ABE is geared for –students taking classes while in the
workforce to advance their careers – are the ones hit hardest, as
the largest decline in student enrollment in a college completion
survey last fall was among students age 25 and older. We do all we
can to help these adult students, but juggling family, career and an
uncertain future at school can simply be too much.
Illinois cannot succeed without a well-educated, talented, motivated
and successful influx of college graduates each and every year. Most
students only get one chance to go to college. Anyone who has
reached adulthood knows how fleeting time and opportunity can be.
Forcing students to put their education on hold while politicians do
battle in Springfield isn’t an opportunity delayed, it can be an
opportunity denied – with costly consequences for everyone in
David Gerlach, Ph.D
President, Lincoln College
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