Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs visited Spoon River College’s Canton Campus on September 15 for a discussion with college officials and students about the affordability of higher education.

“Talent is a spread across all socioeconomic groups, but too often those on the lower end don’t get to develop their talent with a college education,” said Frerichs. “Community colleges are a great avenue to access higher education for everyone, but even here, costs are increasing.”

Federal funding such as PELL and MAP grants can lessen cost for those who qualify, but it’s not a one size fits all. Nursing and other career training programs are often not eligible for federal dollars and also often require additional expenses beyond textbooks. Changes in income, which many experienced during the pandemic, can also impact eligibility for federal money.

“Filing a FAFSA requires the use of the previous year’s income. A family may have experienced an income decline that would make them eligible in the year the student intends to enroll, but because the previous year’s income was higher, they could still get denied,” said Peggy Roth, financial aid coordinator at Spoon River College. She also noted that students under the age of 24 who have no parental support and are filing as an independent student must go through an extra certification process.

Private loans with high interest rates can be crippling, with loan payments that new graduates can’t afford.

Frerichs believes one of the best things a family can do is start saving as much as possible as early as possible for their children’s future. “High school graduates are three times more likely to attend college if they have a college savings account. It sets up an expectation for them that they are smart, they are college material, and you have invested in them.”

Changes to the Bright Start and Bright Directions College Savings Programs have lowered fees and provided more investment options to help make college more affordable for families saving for their child’s future.

Frerichs added that having a well-educated citizenry benefits all of society. “It’s a problem for the next generation if they can’t get a good job, buy a house, or pay taxes.”

President Curt Oldfield said that because of the generosity of many donors to the SRC Foundation, Spoon River College is able to award scholarships to students that also help reduce the cost of attending college.

“The State of Illinois has not consistently invested in higher education and the legislature has continued to add unfunded mandates, both of which have shifted the burden of the cost of higher education to the students,” Oldfield said. “Treasurer Frerich’s visit was a wonderful opportunity for students to share the challenges they are facing to pay for college, and it also highlighted to family members of future college students the importance of saving for college.”

Michael Frerichs Visits SRC

SRC students pictured with Frerichs are Justice Westlake (Astoria), Trinity Brock (Macomb), and student trustee Mary Toothaker (Farmington).