Bonds could help Illinois college fund

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: In Illinois, a state financial aid program for low-income college students is running out of money. And as of today, the state will suspend the program, leaving thousands of students without a key source of financial aid. So state officials are getting creative. From the education desk, Marketplace's Amy Scott reports.


Amy Scott: Danielle Medine is a sophomore at Roosevelt University in Shaumberg, Ill. She's putting herself through school with loans and grants and by working two jobs. She gets about $5,000 a year from the state of Illinois.

Danielle Medine: It makes a huge difference. You know if I don't get this grant I may have to take out another loan or pick up more hours.

Medine's application for next year is already in. But as of today, students who apply for grants may be out of luck.

Andrew Davis: We are projecting that approximately 220,000 students will apply for aid, be eligible for it, and not receive it.

Andrew Davis is head of the state agency that runs the grant program. He says in each of the last two years, applications have gone up 30 percent. The tough economy has left more students in need of help when the state is least able to afford it.

So Davis has proposed a novel solution. He wants Illinois to sell bonds to investors to fund the grant program. He says the state stands to profit; a lot of these grants go to community college students. The agency's research has shown that low-income people who go to community college end up paying far more state income tax than those who don't.

Davis: And that increase in taxes more than justifies the state making the investment in helping them go to school.

The state legislature would have to approve the plan. With Illinois already heavily in debt, Davis expects some opposition.

I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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