Families trying to do right by their college-age students are the latest victims of the state’s ongoing budget mess, with funding on hold for Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants.
Money for continuing the state grants was not included in the stopgap funding bill passed earlier this year, although several state universities said they would continue to enroll the students through the second semester.
Other students, including some at private universities, aren’t as lucky as those schools are making some very difficult choices of their own.
As reported by (the JG-TC) Springfield bureau last week, a new survey from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, which administers the grants through the Monetary Award Program, suggests some schools that covered the grants in the fall aren’t making guarantees for the spring.
Of the 96 colleges and universities that responded to the survey, 53 percent said they would guarantee the funding for the spring semester, down from 60 percent in the fall, although not all schools responded to the survey.
The stopgap budget plan (which ends Dec. 31) included money to finish paying off last year’s MAP grants, but didn’t include money for the current year.
Most schools covered the amounts for the fall, but not all are doing that for the spring. (Eastern Illinois University) is, but Illinois Wesleyan University (for example) is changing its policy to case-by-case eligibility.
A majority of schools that are covering the grants said they would require students to repay them if the state doesn’t come through with the money, or reduces the program’s funding level.
As the state continues to stumble along through another budget stalemate, lawmakers and other state leaders need to pay close attention to the people and programs they choose to fund or not fund.
If there is a non-government grant available for a particular program, perhaps the state’s grant could be shaved or dropped. The type of program also needs to be taken into consideration: Surely education is a higher priority — one that would pay off in benefits for years to come — than other programs of more questionable design.
Not every student will get state aid for attending college, but those who do have the greatest need — those who qualify for MAP grants — and should be given priority, as should the program itself.
Education is the key to a good life, a good economy and a good future. Illinois needs to make sure its funding priorities are front and center, not just for MAP grants, but for vocational, pre-k, secondary and post-secondary learning and teaching.
We call on our legislators and legislative leaders to step up and do the right thing. Yes, we’ve asked them to do that time and time again, and will continue until they do.
— Bloomington Pantagraph