The casualties of power-driven political gridlock are on display everywhere as the eight-month-long Illinois budget impasse slowly crawls over more.

We worry that soon there will be so many we become numb to the high cost of the failure of our elected leaders to lead. The culprits are bipartisan and so is their growing toll of victims. And all - not just the politically connected and those, such as big lottery winners, who manage to capture headlines - require our attention.

Here at home, consider, the college students who marched in protest Wednesday at the Western Illinois University Quad City riverfront campus. Demonstrators, who carried signs to protest cuts to the Illinois monetary awards program, are the latest to put a face on the nearly 130,000 Illinois college students deeply affected by Illinois' inability to save economic needs-based scholarships so essential for many working class Illinois kids to go to school.

Colleges have been picking up the slack for the missing MAP funds, but that is expected to change as most higher education institutions continue to cope with deep cuts in general state aid due to our state leaders' failure to agree on a spending plan.

If MAP grants are gone, it will mean many students will be priced out of a college education completely, and struggling to pay back the money schools fronted them for their current year's awards. Others will be required to go deeper in debt if they want to remain in school and get their degrees.

The problems aren't confined to Western's Moline campus, either. They exist around the state. Rather than getting real solutions to the crisis, students - and their taxpaying parents - get more political posturing.

That suggests conclusions, both of them troubling: Either majority lawmakers don't understand the consequences of spending money we don't have despite the state's $7 billion and growing pile of unpaid bills, or they were providing political cover for lawmakers on the campaign trail.

There would be no need for such political cover, if legislative leaders and the governor would do what they were elected to do: find a way to effectively govern.

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