Illinois Governor: Free Tuition for Some In-State College Students Within Reach

Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) proposed a $100 million increase to the Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP), which provides grants to eligible in-state students who demonstrate financial need.
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  • The Illinois Monetary Award Program is available to state residents who demonstrate financial need and attend an approved in-state college.
  • Pritzker wants a big increase to the Monetary Award Program.
  • Combined with Pell Grants, an increase in the program could mean "virtually everyone at or below median income in Illinois can go to community college tuition-free."

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker's proposed budget includes a $100 million increase to a grant program for college students, which could translate to free community college for in-state students at or below the median income.

Pritzker proposed a $100 million increase to the Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP) in his 2024 fiscal year budget. Funding for the program increased in recent years, with every eligible student for a MAP grant now receiving one, Pritzker noted. He also pointed to an increase in enrollment at state universities as a sign of the program's success.

A $100 million increase to the MAP grant program, Pritzker told lawmakers during his Feb. 15 State of the State remarks, would mean broad access to tuition-free community college in Illinois.

"With a $100 million increase to MAP, we can make history," Pritzker said. "Together with Pell Grants, virtually everyone at or below median income in Illinois can go to community college tuition-free. That means higher wages and better jobs in healthcare, IT, construction management, manufacturing, accounting, and much more.

"For decades we neglected direct investments in our state universities and community colleges. I propose we raise our direct investment in them by $100 million — the largest increase in more than two decades. This is yet another way to make college more affordable."

MAP is available to Illinois residents who demonstrate financial need, attend an approved in-state college, maintain "satisfactory academic progress," and haven't received a bachelor's degree, according to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission website.

Pritzker's budget also includes an $80.5 million increase for public universities and a $19.4 million increase for community colleges, as well as a $2.8 million increase to the Minority Teachers of Illinois scholarship, according to a press release.

"Illinois community colleges have and continue to be our state's most effective resource for workforce development," Illinois Community College Board Chair Lazaro Lopez said in the release. "This proposed budget reflects the need for additional investment in community colleges throughout the state that educate and train the workforce for the industries of today and emerging industries that are growing by leaps and bounds."

Illinois Student Assistance Commission Executive Director Eric Zarnikow said in the release that current MAP funding allowed the state to offer awards to every eligible student for the first time in nearly two decades and added that the proposed increase could be "life-changing for a low-income student."

"Moreover, support for teacher programs, as well as other scholarships and grants, will help develop a teacher workforce, school social workers and other professionals that reflect the diversity of our students," Zarnikow said. "This is a proposed budget with a demonstrated commitment to students and families and to continuing to improve accessibility and equity for all Illinoisans."