Increase of MAP grants needed to expand opportunities

As tuition continues to rise each year, the amount of grant or scholarship money given begins to cover less and less of a student’s needs, and payments push deeper and deeper into the checkbook.

One in 5 University undergraduate students receive Monetary Award Program grants each year, which allow more students to attend a renowned university — for DePaul and Northern Illinois, it’s one in three.

However, not all students receive MAP grants, and the challenge of figuring out how to afford yearly tuition costs can be daunting for families who do not receive the state-funded assistance.

On March 26, Gov. Pat Quinn recommended an increase to MAP grants in his proposed budget, allowing more opportunities for low-income families and adding the possibility of more diversity at universities across the state.

An additional 21,000 students at colleges across the state could receive MAP grants in the 2015 fiscal year, which is 21,000 more students who would have access to the education they hope for, if Quinn is successful in his push to add $50 million to Illinois MAP funding.

This means everything for the 58 percent of MAP recipients who have no other way of paying for college, according to a press release from Quinn’s office — hence, an increase in MAP grants would be immensely beneficial for those others who cannot afford higher education.

While $50 million is an expensive amount that may furrow the brows of taxpayers, this investment is necessary if statewide universities hope to continue boasting a diverse student body.

Because grant money is given on a first-come, first-serve basis, the state quickly runs out of funds, leaving many without any aid. If $50 million was added, this would happen less quickly and ideally allow a great number of students to receive higher educations.

For those whose educations are not funded entirely by MAP grants, the student debt clock continues to tick without pause, as Americans owe more than $1 trillion in student loans, which is more than the country owes in credit card debt. In 2011, college seniors in Illinois graduated with an average of $28,000 of debt per graduate, according to The Institute for College Access & Success.

While college grads are often plagued by debt, so is the state itself, which some cite as reason to oppose the additional funding to the MAP grant program. Though Quinn’s proposal lacked a clear description of where the additional funding for MAP grants would from, it’s important to deeply consider the needs of students and access to education opportunities, because that is 21,000 more people that would be allowed the chance to learn and grow in a university setting.