To the Editor:
I would like to commend Joliet Junior College President Judy Mitchell, the JJC Board of Trustees and the rest of the JJC leadership for their cost-effective and innovative approach of reimbursing students the extra cost of tuition they paid due to the State of Illinois budget impasse.
Early last year, JJC made the difficult decision to raise tuition by $19 a credit hour because of the uncertainty of state funding with the lack of a budget. Tragically, this is a cost shouldered by those who can least afford it.
Junior college functions as a stepping stone for many who cannot afford tuition at a four-year university or the burden of hefty student loans. Many times, these students are from low-income households and are the first in their families to attend college.
Often, they are immigrants or first-generation Americans in search of better opportunities than what were available to their parents.
Due to the governor neglecting one of his most basic constitutional duties of presenting a balanced budget and legislators being unable to reach a compromise, college students throughout the state were left unsure about their ability to pay for school.
This is unacceptable. As elected officials, it is our duty to ensure young people have opportunities that allow them to become members of the educated workforce our state needs to thrive.
I regret that JJC was forced to prepare for the worst. However, when faced with adversity, they did their best to keep classrooms full. After legislators on both sides of the aisle finally reached an agreement and took difficult votes, a budget was passed last summer. When the worst did not happen, JJC returned tuition money to the people who need it most.
Joliet Junior College is an inspiration to every college in our great state. I wish JJC and all of its students a successful and productive 2018.
Susana A. Mendoza, Illinois state comptroller