(Graphic by Donna Boguslavsky)
If the Illinois General Assembly does not renew the Monetary Award Program on the budget, or fails to pass a budget, Knox students from Illinois will lose $1,576,480 in financial aid, according to Director of Government and Community Relations Karrie Heartlein.
At a faculty meeting on Monday, April 3, President Teresa Amott made clear how important the renewal of MAP, is to Knox students. There are 344 students at Knox who receive financial aid through MAP. Each student who is eligible for MAP receives $4,720 a year, accordin to Heartlein.
However, the MAP grant for the 2016-17 school year is still listed as “Pending” on students’ accounts. The Illinois General Assembly and Governor have still not passed a budget for the 2017 fiscal year.
In a similar fashion, the General Assembly did not approve the last budget until June 30, 2016, the very last possible day. They agreed on a stop-gap budget, which was a six-month budget to appeal to both sides of the arguing Assembly. They then passed another six-month budget that only extended until this June.
It appears that the General Assembly may be going a similar route this year, as Illinois residents wait for them to pass the budget for the 2017 fiscal year.
“Needless to say, [the wait]leaves students feeling a little bit in the [dark], that creates a lot of uncertainty and students who understandably need those funds to continue their education,” Heartlein said.
Typically, students who are eligible for federal Pell Grants are also eligible for the Illinois MAP Grant. However, Pell Grants are always awarded the same year that they would be used, since they are incorporated into the federal fiscal budget, since they are federal grants. Pell recipients typically receive $5,920 and have that money added to their financial aid at the beginning of the school year.
MAP recipients who were notified that they would be receiving an award in March of 2015 did not know if it would actually be allotted until June 2016, after the General Assembly meeting.
“And of course, June is after the students have left. So students who had been promised a MAP grant in March of the previous year waited that entire year until June of the following year to find out whether or not they were actually going to get those funds. That’s a long time. That’s a long wait,” Heartlein said.
Heartlein said that another potential issue is that many students who have MAP grants also take out loans of about $5,000 annually. If the MAP grant doesn’t come in, students will not know until June, and will then have to scramble to put together another $4,720.
“It would be significant hardship for our students who would have to come up with that $5,000 dollars at the end of the year, that would be a significant hardship … If they were to have to take out a loan to pay the remaining amount of a MAP grant, that would be doubling the size of their loan. That’s too big of a burden,” Heartlein said.
Last year, Heartlein took a van load of students to Springfield to lobby for MAP with several hundred other college students at the Illinois General Assembly. While no plans for further lobbying are in the works yet, she urges students to make their voices heard, by calling or writing letters to their representatives and senators.
“I think one of the reasons that MAP has not fallen away is because students and colleges have been active advocates and I would encourage every student who is able and interested to contact their own representatives and senators in the General Assembly and encourage them to support MAP,” Heartlein said.
Erika Riley is a sophomore majoring in creative writing, and planning to minor in journalism. During freshman year, she worked as a layout editor for the news section. She was involved in journalism previously as managing editor of her high school’s paper, but found a stronger passion for journalism after coming to Knox and joining TKS. Twitter: @ej_riley