This past fiscal year 1,600 applicants who were accepted to the university were unable to attend because they did not receive MAP grants.
The state’s Monetary Award Program provides grants to Illinois residents who attend approved Illinois colleges and demonstrate financial need.
Twelve SIUC students joined hundreds of other in-state college students at Lobby Day Wednesday in Springfield to gain support for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission’s fiscal year 2013 budget request.
The budget request includes nearly $437 million in general funds. The amount is a $50 million increase from the general assembly’s appropriation for fiscal year 2012, but only $3 million over the appropriations for fiscal year 2011, according to an email from Brian Chapman, executive assistant of external affairs in the SIU president’s office.
More than 5,000 SIUC students rely on MAP grants to finance their education, according to the email from the president’s office.
Ray Gilmer, a senior from East St. Louis studying social work, said his main reason for attending the lobby was for the prospective students who were not able to acquire the grant.
He said there are an estimated 150,000 Illinois students who qualified for the grant but will not be able to claim it because of state budget cuts. He said he does not think this is fair.
Gilmer said he understands the state’s financial situation well and knows there need to be budget cuts, but he does not think education is where they should come from.
Rachel Covey, a junior from Herrin studying social work, said lobbying was important to her because she is one of the many students who receive the MAP grant.
“I could have easily been one of the students who didn’t receive my grant,” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done if I was not able to attend school, but I know that is something no student should have to deal with.”
This year the state ran out of grant money March 13, which is 36 days earlier than 2011. This was the earliest suspension of award announcement in the programs history.
Gilmer said this is just reflective of the year’s budget cut.
Covey said the group went to Springfield with intentions of being recognized and to represent all of SIUC’s students.
The students filled out requests to meet with legislators, senators and representatives. Once their meetings were approved, the students had several minutes to advocate for the budget request.
“I think us students actually being there made a difference,” she said. “You could send administration from around the state to lobby, but sending students puts a face on the problem. I got the opportunity to meet with Sen. Forby. We discussed the issue and he ended up promising his vote.”
SIU President Glenn Poshard also attended the Lobby Day.
“His presence was surly appreciated,” Gilmer said. “He gave us a motivational speech before we entered the Capitol building and it was just great to know that he was behind us 100 percent.”
Chapman said he considers the trip successful.
“Our students had an opportunity to put our name out there, show how engaged they are in citizenship and show their appreciation for the democratic process,” he said.
SIUC and SIUE collaborated for the trip to carry a larger presence.
Chapman said the students showed leadership and were a great representation of the universities.
“I think the students took away a greater appreciation for being involved and the understanding that it is possible to make a difference,” he said.
Gilmer said this is his second year going to the lobby and he doesn’t expect it to be the last.
“It’s inevitable that with the state of our economy that this will be an annual problem. It is important that we ensure that our youth are able to obtain a quality education to ensure a bright future,” Gilmer said.