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A fair price for college

If Illinois is going to invest in a student’s education, the student should be willing to invest in Illinois.

That’s a basic premise behind a bill introduced in Springfield regarding the state’s MAP grant program for low-income students. Students who receive a grant would have to agree to work in Illinois for five years. If they decided to work out of state, they would have to repay the grant.

This would be sound policy for a state looking to get the most bang out of its limited bucks. Illinois spends $373 million a year on this program but can only help fewer than half the students who apply.

One of the justifications for the grant program is that if poor students can’t afford to go to college, Illinois loses their talents. Well, if they move out of state and work elsewhere, that’s not helping Illinois, either.

Other sensible changes proposed:

• Students would lose eligibility if they drop out of school with poor grades.

• Grants could not be used at for-profit colleges.

We urge local lawmakers to support these changes. The grants are free to students but not to taxpayers. For the taxpayers’ sake, it makes sense to attach more strings to the money.