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House bill could benefit new demographic of students

Written by on April 17, 2019

NORMAL – A bill that was recently passed in the House could potentially benefit students at universities and community colleges throughout the state of Illinois.

The bill is an effort to make tuition assistance accessible to undocumented and transgender students who currently do not have access to these resources. Financial aid is one of the biggest issues college students face, especially those who are undocumented. Supported by Democratic State Representative Elizabeth Hernandez of Chicago, the proposal would benefit qualifying students by making them eligible for taxpayer-funded MAP grants.

Other representatives are concerned that there is not enough money to support this bill. Republican State Representative Norine Hammond of Macomb expressed concerns specifically with MAP grants stating that there are insufficient funds to support the already eligible students and fears there may not be enough to go around.

Director of Financial Aid at Illinois State University Bridget Curl expressed a similar concern regarding how this could impact ISU’s students.

“Under current appropriations, they would have to shift the funding from one student to another. It would go from one eligible student to this new eligible student,” said Curl.

“In my opinion, if this is something that goes through, in the financial aid world, we would love to see an increase in the funding too, so that this increases the number of student MAP recipients rather than just changing the demographics of who receives that award.”

According to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, the measure would increase demand by about $9 million and cover an estimated 3,500 students. Yet, there is no clear way to measure these numbers considering it is hard to determine which students identify as transgender and especially hard to determine which students among the population are undocumented.

Despite discretions, the bill passed through House 66 to 47. ISU’s Committee Assisting Undocumented Students Achievement (CAUSA) Co-chair Julie Lynd believes this is a step in the right direction.

“I think it’s an excellent step. I think any legislation to get students access to the financial aid that they need is definitely a step forward,” said Lynd.

“I’d like to see a full on dream act at the federal level. Education is a civil right and we need to do whatever we can to give students their right to education.”

CAUSA is a volunteer group of faculty, staff and students working to raise awareness and support undocumented students and their families. Undocumented students seeking help can find resources through contacting CAUSA at isu@IllinoisState.edu.