Possible MAP grant cuts would affect thousands

By Abigale Svoboda

Shamseldin is one of the University’s 5,667 students who received MAP grant funding at the start of the fall semester, despite the lack of a state budget. In August, the University had distributed over $12 million in MAP grants.

On Wednesday, Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson sent an email to MAP-eligible students notifying them that if money is not allocated for MAP grants in the state budget, students will need to pay back the money their account was credited for the fall semester. Students would not receive grants for the spring semester if money is not allocated for MAP grants.

The announcement has left students with MAP grants uncertain of how, or if, they will be able to afford University tuition in the spring. Additionally, students may have to determine how to repay their MAP grants — a program that is never supposed to require repayment, even after graduation.

“It’d be insane if we ended up going into next semester, and we still didn’t have any funding for MAP. There are over 130,000 students in the state of Illinois who rely on MAP grants,” said Mitch Dickey, student body president. “Those students are either faced with either dropping out or having to figure out some way to pay for the grants out of pocket.”

Shamseldin, a junior in ACES, estimates that she has a total of $24,000 in loans and scholarships in addition to her MAP grant. She said she has a “back-up plan” to account for any lost funding but is still disappointed in the possibility of needing to repay the grants.

“What’s the point of getting help if we’re just going to have to give it all back?” she asked. If necessary, she has money saved from the four jobs she worked over the course of high school.

“I just planned to use it next year, not this semester,” she said. “I’ll work over winter break and in the summer too.”

The University’s decision to credit MAP grants to students’ accounts was made on the assumption that the budget would be decided and the program would be funded at $373.25 million, the same amount budget in fiscal year 2015.

The decision was made despite the fact that on June 25, Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill that would have allocated $397,073,100 to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to fund MAP grantsRB.

The University is still waiting on a state budget decision for fiscal year 2016 — which began on July 1. At a Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, University Chief Financial Officer Walter Knorr said he does not expect a state budget until January.

Wilson said it is highly unlikely MAP grants won’t be included in the state’s allocation for the University, however students should enroll for the spring semester knowing it is a possibility.

Shamseldin, a product of Illinois’ public schools, is a first-year student with junior standing. With the help of her high school, she earned her associate’s degree at Rock Valley Community College while attending high school.

During high school, Shamseldin also worked multiple jobs. Between waiting tables and working at the Crosby Law Firm, she also found time to intern on Rauner’s campaign team.

“I’m more content with (Rauner) having control of our budget than I was with Quinn but education is one of the things we disagree on,” she said. “Cuts definitely needed to be made but I don’t think they should be to education.”

After earning her degree in Agriculture and Consumer Economics, Shamseldin hopes to attend law school and eventually work in government. Until then, Shamseldin is involved in government through the Illinois Student Senate as the Champaign City Council liaison. She is also the executive assistant to Matt Hill, Illinois Student Senate vice president-external.

The Illinois Student Senate traveled to the capitol building in Springfield on Oct. 20 for a “Crisis Advocacy Day” to lobby in favor of MAP grants and against Rauner’s proposed 31.5 percent cut to higher education funding.RB

Additionally, the student senate organized a letter writing campaign to urge Illinois legislators to fight for MAP grants. The students sent 70 handwritten letters ahead of an Illinois House Committee on the Whole meeting discussing MAP grant funding.

At the meeting, members of the House amended House Bill 4156 to introduce new wording to fund MAP grants. The majority voted in favor of the amended bill — 68 voted in favor, 15 voted against and 10 voted present. The bill must now be approved by the House. If approved, the bill would then go to the senate. Finally, the bill would be sent to Rauner for approvalRB.

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