DIXON – Students can cross a state grant for the spring semester off their holiday wish lists: Officials are advising them not to expect Monetary Assistance Program grants next semester.
“At this point, I’ve erred on the side of caution and advised and directed students to not count on that money,” said Jennifer Schultz, director of financial assistance at Sauk Valley Community College. “If it comes through, it’s a perk you shouldn’t have planned on. I’d hate to set them up for false hope.”
For the third straight semester, MAP grants, which help financially strapped students pay tuition and other expenses, will not be immediately available. The stopgap budget signed June 30 by Gov. Bruce Rauner did not include MAP funding for the 2016-17 school year, and Sauk will not fund them in the hopes of being reimbursed.
It did that in fall 2015, providing about $60,000 for 468 eligible students, but simply hasn’t had the money to do so again. The school also was able to reimburse students for this spring’s grants, using stopgap funding.
This fall, 75 students were eligible for MAP grants, Schultz said.
The stopgap budget fully funded K-12 education for the whole school year, but provided community colleges and universities with funds only through the end of the calendar year. If nothing changes in Springfield, Sauk will continue to operate on a fiscal year 2017 budget with a deficit of about $1.9 million.
“There are some institutions out there that are in rough shape,” said Melissa Dye, Sauk’s dean of business services.
She and other college’s chief financial officers met in October, and little if any light was shed on higher education funding discussions in Springfield.
“There wasn’t any conversation about where they were at and what they were doing,” she said, and she’s heard not so much as a murmur since.
Sauk is part of a growing number of community colleges that aren’t guaranteeing MAP funds. A survey released recently by Illinois Student Assistance Commission, which disseminates the funds, showed that only 53 percent of 96 colleges surveyed said they’d guarantee MAP grants in the spring, down from 60 percent in the fall.
Students can receive up to $912 in MAP money, depending on a few factors – income chief among them.
Dye takes some solace in the fact that most eligible students also qualify for federal Pell grants.
“They usually have enough in federal aid to cover their tuition and books,” she said. “It’s just all the other costs that come with going to school where the MAP helps kids out: the gas, the rent, all of those kinds of things.”
Sauk to name new TRiO director: With former TRiO director Lori Cortez, having been promoted to dean of foundation, grants, and governmental relations, Sauk found a perfectly capable replacement right in its backyard.
Savannah Mussington of Sterling, former TRiO director at Kishwaukee Community College in Malta, will be named Cortez’s replacement at Monday’s board meeting.
TRiO is a federally funded outreach program for low-income families, first-generation college students and those with disabilities.
The Sauk Valley Community College Board of Trustees meets at 6 p.m. Monday in the board room at the college, 173 state Route 2 in Dixon.
Go to svcc.edu or call 815-288-5511 for more details.