MAP grants essential in mobilizing workforce

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

There’s no question the Monetary Award Program has been largely successful — it’s helping thousands of students attend school who otherwise might not be able to make financial ends meet or not be able to attend, period. Yet, as the demand for MAP grants steadily increases, the once bountiful program has been stretched thin to provide less-than-sufficient aid for those truly in need.

Now, Gov. Pat Quinn is pushing for a renewed effort to double the funding. Except, there’s one problem.

“We can’t finish the job if deserving students aren’t able to afford a college education. So, over the next five years — let’s double the number of MAP college scholarships for students in need in Illinois,” he told lawmakers. 

In his annual State of the State address last week, Quinn made the proclamation to mobilize the workforce toward “21st century jobs” where the goal is to have 60 percent of working adults obtain college degrees by 2025 to prepare them for “high-skill, in-demand jobs.” 

Yet, he was short on how exactly the cash-strapped state will come up with that money, which helps roughly 140,000 Illinois students go to college per year.

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    More than a year ago, MAP Task Force Chair Eric Zarnikow made it clear: Almost half of eligible students do not receive a grant due to limited resources. This statistic doesn’t include the number of students whose funding has been slashed, leaving them to shoulder the remaining costs.

    But, overall, the infrastructure of MAP makes distribution of grant money as fair as possible. The program automatically considers need-based students who apply for financial aid, and the money goes to students whose families earn the lowest income.

    With the number of students attending college increasing (enrollment in degree-seeking institutions increased 37 percent between 2000-10, according to the National Center for Education Statistics), the constant demand to eat up as many dollars from the tuition bill isn’t going away. In fact, we can only see it increasing, as tuition is increasing annually for incoming freshman.

    According to the task force, the maximum award in 2002 covered the average cost of tuition and fees at a public Illinois university. Last year? It only covered about 37 percent of the cost.

    Late last month, the University Board of Trustees approved a tuition hike of 1.7 percent, one of the lowest increases in the last two decades. It follows a blueprint created by the board to limit the increases by the rate of inflation.

    Now, the state needs to meet our University and others halfway with support of the MAP grant program — a lifeblood to the education of those who want the opportunity and who will hold critical roles in our society.

    “By doubling the number of MAP scholarships, we can make sure deserving students in need are equipped to excel in the 21st century workplace,” Quinn said before moving onto a new topic without mentioning a blueprint, about 30 seconds after announcing his intentions.

    Maybe that foreshadows what we should expect of yet another lofty goal.