DeKALB | Moriah Tyler, Student Association senator and Monetary Award Program grant recipient, said without the financial assistance of her grant, she’s not sure she would be able to attend NIU.
Tyler was one of many to share her story during a SA MAP grant rally to protest state budget cuts Thursday in the MLK commons.
MAP grants are awarded to students in need of financial assistance based on their FAFSA. The grants are funded by the state and are awarded by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. However, funding for these grants is at risk because of the wavering state budget, which is following a yearlong budget impasse.
The impasse resulted from state lawmakers disagreeing with Gov. Bruce Rauner on a budget for Fiscal Year 2016. Until the budget passed in June, state budget appropriations could not be dispersed, including funding for higher education.
“Without the MAP grant, I don’t know where I would be right now,” Tyler said. “I don’t blame one side or the other. It’s not about Republicans or Democrats; it’s about everyone. Everyone needs to be held accountable, [and] I think I’ve done my part. I’ve hung in there.”
Unlike Tyler, many speakers blamed Illinois’ political atmosphere for the decrease in funding. Illinois Rep. Kelly Burke expressed her frustrations with Illinois’ government at the rally, as Rauner has vetoed multiple state budgets that fund higher education.
Burke highlighted the importance of contacting the people in public office, like local representatives, in order to make change.
Illinois Rep. Will Guzzardi, who attended the rally, has been in office for two years and has yet to see a budget pass.
“These two years have been very difficult for higher education, but the problem has been going on for decades,” Guzzardi said. “The wealthiest people in our state are wealthier than they have ever been. The biggest corporations in the state are making more profit than they’ve ever made. Then, they look at poor people and say, ‘I’m sorry there’s not enough to go around,’ and pit us against each other.”
Guzzardi said he would not only like to see a budget pass but would also like to see more of the upper class’ income be put toward higher education.
Faculty members also expressed frustration about the state’s lack of budget planning.
“I find it disheartening that we had the same rally last year,” said University Council Chair Greg Long. “We have done as much as we can to reduce cost. Unless state universities receive funding, students’ education will suffer.”
SA Senate Speaker Christine Wang said students can make a difference by contacting their local and state legislators. She said the best way to make an impact is for students to tell their stories.
Many students at the rally said they may have to drop out or take out student loans if their MAP grants are not funded.
Erica Jaquelin Vivaldo, senior community leadership and civic engagement major, is unsure about finishing school if her MAP grants do not continue to be funded.
“I think [this situation] has affected me just with having the mentality of ‘what if’,” Vivaldo said.