Students demonstrate for end to budget stall


Students and community members demonstrate Oct. 29 in the Martin Luther King Jr. Commons for an end to the Illinois budget impasse between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly. The Student Association will begin a letter-writing campaign Friday so students can send their grievances to lawmakers. 

By Maxwell Bisaillon and Nick Bosshart

Dillon Domke, Student Association Senate Speaker, said he will meet with Bethany Vanover, SA Senate Legislative Director, this week to see what the SA’s next steps will be after Thursday’s rally.

Approximately 200 students and community members filled the Martin Luther King Jr. Commons for an SA-led rally Thursday in an effort influence the General Assembly and Gov. Bruce Rauner to pass a state budget and fully fund Monetary Award Program grants for students. The event was planned in conjunction with Rauner’s visit to NIU to speak at the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation’s Annual Dinner and State of the County event in the Holmes Student Center, Duke Ellington Ballroom.

NIU credited MAP grant recipients this semester without state funding, but may not be able to do so in the spring 2016 semester because of the budget impasse. More than a quarter of NIU students and more than 130,000 students across the state receive funding from the MAP grant program, Domke said.

“The MAP grant was my saving grace because if I did not receive that, I would not be here on campus today,” said sophomore Bianca Alcantar, a MAP grant recipient who spoke at Thursday’s rally.

Speakers at the rally included NIU MAP grant recipients, faculty, state legislators and community leaders. Faculty Senate President Greg Long said he has a son and brother with disabilities, and he fears them not being able to get resources with budget cuts.

“The long term economic costs of limiting student potential is staggering,” Long said. “Both sides need to put forward realistic budget proposals and hammer out the differences, show leadership and make logic work.”

Additional speakers included student government officials from Illinois schools such as Elmhurst College, College of DuPage and Chicago State University. Henry Garcia, student body vice president of VOICE, Concordia University Chicago’s student government, said he started the hashtag #KEEPTHEGRANT2015 for people at the rally to use on Twitter.

The final speaker of the rally was Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley), who said 348,000 students who qualified for MAP Grants did not receive them this year. In 2000, every person that qualified for the grant received it, Pritchard said.

“Last year’s college graduates added $2.8 billion dollars to the state economy,” Pritchard said. “Education beyond high school significantly increases an individual’s earning ability over their career.”

Domke and the SA Senate unanimously passed a resolution Sunday to thank those who attended the rally, and said the SA is already looking to see “what’s next,” as he continues to reach out and set meetings with Rauner and legislative officials.

“We wanted to educate students and community members and empower them to take action,” Domke said. ”I think we did that here today.”