Gov. Pritzker stops at JWCC in support of a $100M increase in student aid

Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 5:38 PM CDT
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QUINCY (WGEM) - In the weeks leading up to the new fiscal year’s budget going into effect, Gov. J.B. Pritzker made a stop at John Wood Community College Monday afternoon, touting the several million-dollar increase in spending for higher education.

“Everyone ought to be able to get the skills they need to get a good paying job or get a better-paying job without being strapped for debt for the rest of your life,” Pritzker said in front of a crowd of about 60 people in the school’s gymnasium.

In the last two weeks, Illinois lawmakers okayed the proposed budget and sent it to Pritzker’s desk for a signature. The budget calls for a $100 million increase in the state’s Monetary Award Program (MAP).

Since 2019, the MAP program has nearly doubled, going from $401 million in aid annually to now $701 million, if passed.

“Our local economies are dependent upon the talent and support that comes from our community colleges,” Pritzker said.

At John Wood Community College, 600 of the 1,700 total student population have received a state grant. One of them in second-year-student Nicole Cooley.

Cooley is a Western Illinois native but was financially concerned about college when a family auto repair shop didn’t pan out.

“It was going well but because of COVID and everyone staying home as much as possible it threw us off and they could not continue to keep the business open,” Cooley said.

After receiving a MAP grant, Cooley is now active on campus, being part of the cheer team and vice president of the school’s student government association.

“I would’ve either had to try to work as much as possible with taking a few online classes on the side and I wouldn’t have been able to be active on campus,” Cooley said.

JWCC President Bryan Renfro said many students that come to the school are in need.

“Anyone that wants to come, we allow, and we try to meet them where they’re at and bring their educational levels to where they need to be,” Renfro said.

The budget also includes a $500 million investment to community college infrastructure. Additionally, a $250 million investment to Smart Start Illinois, an early childhood program that targets teacher wage increases, scholarships and facility creation.

Pritzker said he hopes to have the budget signed within the next few weeks. Fiscal year 2024 begins July 1.


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