Loss of grant affects 220 city colleges students

  • By Peter Sachs
  • Education reporter
  • September 24, 2008 @ 2:40 PM

Two of Chicago’s city colleges have scaled back a program for domestic violence victims since a grant was eliminated.

The state grant covered tuition for about 1,500 women, as well as counseling and other services at 10 community colleges across the state.  At the two city colleges, 220 students attended classes with the grant money. Now many are having to turn to other sources of money, like federal student loans, to stay in school.

Malcolm X College, on the Near West Side, and Olive-Harvey College, in Cottage Grove Heights, were the two city colleges that offered the program. Now both have suspended the Illinois Support, Training & Employment Program.

Earlier this summer, Gov. Rod Blagojevich cut all funding for the displaced homemakers program, as it was more commonly known, to help make up a $2.1 billion statewide budget deficit.

The program gave out $620,000 in grants across the state last year. While 65 percent of women who used it were victims of domestic violence, women who simply had been divorced, widowed, or who lost their jobs were able to qualify for the grants, too.

In addition to covering tuition, the state money also funded counseling positions at many of the colleges and helped provide for victim assistance and workplace training workshops, says Michelle Adams, the assistant dean of students at Olive-Harvey College.

Olive-Harvey had about 100 students taking advantage of the state grants to help pay for tuition last year, Adams said. Malcolm X had about 120 students under the program, says Kimberly Hollingsworth, the school’s dean of student services.

The loss of the grants has meant a variety of small changes at both colleges, Adams and Hollingsworth say.

Both colleges have had to drop plans for workshops geared toward the women on everything from parenting to career guidance, though the women still have access to the counseling services available to the general student population.

At Olive-Harvey, two members of the staff whose positions were funded by the grants have been laid off, Adams says. But she did not know of any students having to drop out.

“Fortunately for our students, some of the students were able to use workforce investment programs, or they were able to get federal student aid,” Adams says.

Likewise at Malcolm X, “financial aid is available for those who qualify,” Hollingsworth said in an e-mail.

Because each of the 10 colleges in the state ran its own program independently of the others, they are reacting in different ways to the loss of funding. Some colleges elsewhere in the state have said they will shut down their programs by the end of the year, while others plan to keep the program going using their own money to cover tuition and other expenses.

The broader program’s future is uncertain. While the state House approved a bill earlier this month to fund it again, the state Senate has not yet acted on it.

Adams says the program made a difference for the women using it, and said the state Legislature should make funding it again a priority.

“As soon as they meet again, someone needs to do something,” she says.


Peter Sachs is a Chicago-based journalist. He covers higher education for the Daily News.