UI to cover MAP grants institutionally, for now

By MaryCate Most

MAP grant-eligible students received an alarming message on Nov. 10, when it was announced that the lack of a state budget may affect their scholarship funding.

Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson announced in an email that if the state did not allocate funding for the Monetary Award Program grant, or MAP, students may be required to repay the University for fall semester courses and would need to find alternative funding for the spring semester.

The University credited MAP grants to student accounts based on the assumption that the fiscal year 2016 budget would allot $373.25 million for the grants, the same amount budgeted in fiscal year 2015.

But 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 grants.

The state’s failure to pass a budget could impact the 130,000 students in the state of Illinois who use MAP grants to help pay their tuition — including the 5,667 MAP grant recipients enrolled at the UniversityRB.

“It’s a tremendous tragedy (for students),” said Mitch Dickey, student body president.

Wilson stated in the email that she and fellow administrators believe it’s “highly unlikely” that the state will not fund the grants because Gov. Bruce Rauner previously indicated his support for MAP grant funding.

Weeks later, at a Dec. 7 Academic Senate meeting Wilson announced that the University will institutionally cover MAP funding for the time being.

“We will continue aggressive efforts to ensure that MAP funding eventually comes from the state,” Wilson said.

Many students have also joined in on the University’s efforts to keep MAP grant funding alive.

The Illinois Student Senate launched a letter writing campaign — spearheaded by Dickey — early in the semester. Student senators who participated wrote to the Illinois General Assembly in support of the grants.

“Legislators have not been able to brush off that MAP and higher education funding,” he said. “The reason they can’t brush it off is because we’ve been putting a lot of pressure on.”

University Chief Financial Officer Walter Knorr said in a Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 12 that he does not expect to see a state budget until January.

Without these grants, students will have to drop out of the University or find another way to make ends meet, Dickey said.

Raneem Shamseldin, a junior in ACES who receives a MAP grant, said she has a “back-up plan” if the funding falls through, but is still disappointed that she may have to repay the University.

“What’s the point of getting help if we’re just going to have to give it all back?” she asked.

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