In tough economy, Illinois colleges turning down financial aid requests

A headline on an Associated Press story revealed what could become — and what in many cases already is — an extremely troubling situation for potentially hundreds of thousands of college students across the country: Illinois Turns Away 27,000 for Financial Aid.

“The agency that distributes the payments (The Illinois Student Assistance Commission) says an increase in demand has forced it to turn down almost 27,000 students, and that figure could grow to 200,000 by fall,” the story notes. Last year, ISAC provided more than 183,000 grants worth $430 million.

Less financial aid for college in tough times

But there hasn’t been enough money in recent years for all the students who request aid; the story says  some 120,000 students who were eligible for ISAC’s  monetary award program were turned down, and almost 60,000 the year before. This year, though, the numbers will be far more dramatic as more students and their families are struggling to pay for college or staying in school longer because they can’t find jobs.

Some colleges, like the University of Illinois‘  flagship campus in UrbanaChampaign, are finding money to make up the difference; the school plans to spend more than $40 million on supplemental financial aid next year, the story notes.

And what will happen to all the students who are being turned down? Loans are likely their only option. Last year, some private schools took up the slack and offered attractive aid packages, while some public universities were criticized for handing out aid to wealthier students.

In the meantime, there are plenty of other examples. According to a report released this week by the Washington D.C. based Center on Budget and Priority Policies, at least 41 states have cut assistance to public colleges and universities, resulting in reductions in faculty and staff in addition to tuition increases. Michigan and New Mexico, meanwhile, have made deep cuts to need-based financial aid programs as well.

— Liz Willen

POSTED BY ON May 27, 2010