MAP funding may be on the chopping block

By Bill Lukitsch, @Bill_LukitschDE

Caught in the middle of Illinois’ contentious state politics are college students who depend on state aid grants to fund their educations. 

State Sen. Gary Forby (D-Benton) met with SIUC students and members of the press Thursday to discuss Monetary Assistance Program grants, which have yet to be approved in Springfield as Illinois lags through its fourth month without a budget. 

Joshua Bowens, a freshman from Chicago studying political science, said he relies on funding from the MAP grant to attend SIUC, and wants to stay in school to pursue his dream of becoming a judge.

Advertisement

“The MAP grant is important to me and definitely something that I care about a lot, because without it I wouldn’t be in school,” Bowens said.

Bowens has three jobs and serves as a representative of Undergraduate Student Government in addition to his full-time studies. But without aid, Bowens said he would be forced to take on work full-time — something he does not want to do.

“Working full-time will hinder me academically without a doubt,” Bowens said. 

Shantel Franklin, a senior from Chicago studying political science, is in a similar boat. If she does not receive funding from the state, she may have to postpone her final semester at the university to join the workforce without a degree.  

“I’m a first-generation college student, so there’s no way my family can afford to send me to SIU,” she said.

Stories like Franklin’s and Bowen’s are not uncommon at the university. More than a third of SIUC’s 17,292 students are eligible to receive MAP grants, and the program serves roughly 125,000 Illinois students statewide.

The university doled out nearly $5.9 million in aid this fall to eligible undergraduates in anticipation of reimbursement from the state once a budget is passed. But there is no guarantee the university will be able to fund another semester without state appropriations.

If MAP funding is at all reduced by state legislators — something Forby said is entirely possible — the university may send a bill to students who cannot afford to pay it. 

“Things need to be cut. We all know that. We need to tighten our belt; we need to cut, but we have to make sure we get a budget done,” Forby said. “The longer we go, the more it costs.”

In 2002, MAP fully covered the costs of attending college students from low-income families, according to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. Since 2009, only 37 percent of eligible students receive the grant and it covers about 35 percent of the average cost of tuition and fees.

Forby said negotiations between state legislators and Gov. Bruce Rauner have been virtually non-existent, and as time wanes on the costs of operating without a budget will inevitably fall on taxpayers. 

Sheila Simon, an assistant professor of political science at SIUC, said MAP has historically gotten support from state legislators, but it has wavered in recent years because of tuition hikes and disinvestment by the state.   

“Sadly, the MAP grant isn’t even doing what it should be when it’s fully funded,” Simon said. “And the price is that we’re going to lose students like Joshua.”

 Bill Lukitsch can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @Bill_LukitschDE.

Advertisement