Year in Review: Map grants

By Annabeth Carlson

Monetary Award Program (MAP) Grants have caused a large amount of uproar among Illinois students throughout this past academic year. Tight state budgeting has led to controversy and difficult decisions.

“MAP is not part of the university’s budget, but rather a direct grant to students from the state,” said Robin Kaler, Associate Chancellor of Public Affair. “In a typical year, MAP funds come to our Office of Student Financial Aid and they apply the grants to students’ accounts.”

Around 130,000 students across the state currently benefit from MAP Grants. The University distributed over $12 million last August to 5,667 qualified students on campus.

Last November, Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson notified MAP eligible students that their aid might be in jeopardy due to state budget cuts and reform.

“If the university ultimately does not receive MAP funding from the state, we may be required to remove these funds from your university account and you might have to repay the university,” Wilson said.

The next big word on MAP Grants came in February when Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner voted to veto a bill that would have supported higher education funding for low-income students.

In a statement given by Rauner, he said the bill “would explode the state’s budget deficit, exacerbate the state’s cash flow crisis, and place further strain on social service providers and recipients who are already suffering from the state’s deficit spending.”

The following month, the Illinois State Senate passed a bill proposing to overturn Rauner’s veto. However, the bill failed to obtain three-fifths majority in the House and the bill remained vetoed.

Senator Donne Trotter, assistant Majority Leader and one of the bill’s sponsors, said the governor failed to fund the MAP Grants by deciding to “hold the people of the state of Illinois hostage … he decided not to pay these students to assist them to go to college after agreeing to do so.”

In a turn of events, the Illinois comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger paid out the MAP Grants in full. The Illinois Student Assistance Commission sent $164 million in MAP Grant vouchers to her office.

“Our students have suffered unacceptable hardship due to this budget impasse and it is my priority to provide relief however possible,” Munger said.

Despite this contribution, MAP Grant funding is by no means a mute issue. Students will continue to depend on this funding to support their education.

“The state recently released a portion of the MAP grant funding it committed to Illinois students for this school year, but that was enough to cover their awards for last fall,” Kaler said. “Students are still waiting for the funding to cover the spring awards.”

The amount of MAP funds released to the University of Illinois  system as a result of the stopgap funding was $31.1 million which will be distributed among 15,000 students.

This will bring temporary relief to students, but the long-term outcome of MAP Grants are unknown at this time.

“We still don’t know exactly how the MAP grant picture will play out.  We know that MAP funding is a high priority for the state of Illinois, and we believe that the state will honor its obligation to fund MAP,” Kaler said.  “The University of Illinois has advocated vigorously with the state to approve funding for MAP, and we continue to do so.”

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