ROSELAND — Christopher Glenn, a student at Chicago State University, said he sees every day the effort and sacrifice fellow South Siders put in just to make it to college.
But now his school faces closure due to the state's budget impasse, and his publicly funded scholarship has become a victim of budget cuts, he said.
"I see people on this campus every day working hard — they find a way to make it happen," said Glenn, 24, an Auburn Gresham native. Though the students did their part and were on their way to a quality education, lawmakers now failed to hold up their end of the bargain, he said.
Glenn was one of about a dozen speakers at a rally Saturday at Chicago State, 9501 S. King Drive. Organized by the State Assembly Black Caucus, the rally was held to pressure Illinois legislators and Gov. Bruce Rauner to properly fund education and state MAP grants.
The rally came less than a day after the school announced it would need to send 800 employees layoff notices due to a lack of funding from the state, which has been without a budget since mid-2015.
It also came a week after Rauner vetoed a measure to allow emergency funds for the Monetary Award Program grants, or MAP grants, which are awarded based on financial need.
Those at the rally inside the school's student union said Rauner has made it difficult for poor and minority students to pursue higher education.
"I didn't know my education was a privilege," Glenn said. "I thought it was a right."
Chicago State University has recently become the face of the state's budget woes. Prior to giving notice of pending layoffs, the school also decided to cancel spring break in an effort to shorten the semester. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), amid his campaign to be the Democratic presidential nominee, was at Chicago State Thursday to call for free tuition at state universities.
"We're at a critical mass," said state Rep. Elgie Sims (D-34th). "This is not theory. You have students who can't afford to stay in school."
The event was attended by State Treasurer Mike Frerichs, former Gov. Pat Quinn and Sen. Dick Durbin, who said he couldn't remember a time when Illinois was this dysfunctional.
They called on Rauner to fund higher education and asked the General Assembly to override Rauner's veto on MAP grant funds.
"Let's bring some pride back to Illinois," he said. "Now's our chance."
Juwan Hall, a University of Illinois-Chicago student who has also seen his public aid cut, said he has been watching the budget fallout and the Chicago State crisis closely. He said as an Englewood native, he knows many who have graduated from Chicago State and said the black community has tremendous pride in the institution.
"To see it on the verge of closing down is extremely painful," he said. "Black people are the ones hurting the most in this budget impasse."
Hall said tuition at Chicago State University costs about $20,000 a year. It costs about $28,000 a year to imprison someone in Illinois per year, yet there's been no talk of cutting prison funds. He said the decision on which institutions to fund is a costly one.
"Why is it easy to lock us up but it's hard to send us to school and keep us there?" Hall said.
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