Increase of MAP grants would help students, SIU

Like many students at SIUC, affordability impacted Aaron Thomas’s decision to attend the university. Assistance from the state, though, made that decision possible.

The possibility of increased funding to the state-wide assistance program, Monetary Award Program, could benefit future SIUC students. For students such as Thomas, though, the grants already make a difference.

“They help a tremendous amount on my part,” said Thomas, an undecided freshmen from Chicago. “I probably wouldn’t be able to go here without them.”

Less than two months after funds for the student assistance program were restored in December, Gov. Pat Quinn said in his state of the state address Feb. 1 more funding needs to be put into MAP scholarships. An increase in funding, university officials said, could help those who have been eligible to receive the award in the past but didn’t because of lacking funds in the program.

SIU President Glenn Poshard said he heard Quinn had proposed an addition of about $50 million to MAP grant funding, which Poshard said would award funding to SIUC students who have not received MAP awards yet.

“I was heartened to hear the governor’s declaration,” Poshard said. “That might be the one chance we have to help additional students, and would certainly help our enrollment also.”

In spring 2011, there were 1,598 SIUC students registered for the 2011-12 school year and eligible for the MAP award but did not receive one, said Terri Harfst, director of the financial aid office.

She said the average award was $4,367.73. Close to 1,600 SIUC students may have been eligible for thousands of dollars that they did not receive due to the program’s budget restraints.

Harfst said students who filed their Free Application for Federal Student Aid last year after March 25 were unable to receive the MAP grant because of limited funds. After the funding was released January after being restored in December, she said, the deadline to apply has been moved to April 8 this year, so some students who were initially placed on the “suspended state” list for turning in a FAFSA after the date last year may now receive funding.

Thomas said because of the increased MAP funding, he was taken off the waiting list and will be eligible for funding this semester. He said without the funding, he would have had to find alternate sources to pay for school.

While Harfst said she sees how MAP grant funding directly affects students in the financial aid office, she said increased funding can also impact the university.

“It affects us in a positive way, because it makes the amount that students have to pay to go to school less,” she said. “Anything that helps the state helps us.

One concern about the possibility of increased MAP graint funding, Poshard said, is where the money will come from.

In 2010, funding for MAP grants was cut to help cover the state budget deficit. In December 2011, after students were told they may see cuts to their grants in later terms, the funding was restored. Yet many students in the state who qualified still did not receive the grant.

“While nearly 150,000 Illinois students received state MAP scholarships last year to attend college, just as many qualified applicants were denied because of lack of funding,” Quinn said in his state address.

Poshard said he heard about the proposed increases from legislators. Although the funding would directly benefit students, he said he hopes the proposed increase doesn’t create a choice between increasing the cash flow at the university and increasing funding in programs like MAP.

“I don’t know if we would be able to do both, but I hope we don’t get caught in the middle of that situation,” he said.

Poshard said David Vaught, director of the Illinois office of management and budget, was in Carterville Monday at John A. Logan College, where he said there has been a recent increase in state revenue. Poshard said one thing the state must consider when revenue is received is whether it should pay bills or invest in programs.

Although Quinn’s recent statement that the state will increase funding for MAP Grants may not be signed legislation, the impact of the program at SIUC may cause some recipients to hope the governor’s remarks become reality.

According to information from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, which administers the program, the maximum awards for the 2011-12 academic year were reduced by five percent, from $4,968 to $4,720. Because of the restoration of the $33 million in December to the program, that number was not further reduced. Yet the delays in funding last fall, Poshard said, affected SIUC students.

“That funding is still leaving thousands and thousands of students who would otherwise qualify for the money … without any funds,” he said.

 

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