More than 200 students from Illinois colleges and universities gathered at the Thompson Center on Feb. 16 to rally in support of funding the state’s Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant.
The Illinois Federation of Independent Colleges and Universities organized the demonstration in the hopes Gov. Bruce Rauner would fund the program by signing Senate Bill (SB) 2043.
MAP grants provide funds to Illinois residents who attend college in Illinois and are in need of financial aid. These funds do not need to be repaid to the state.
MAP grants are the latest program to be negatively impacted by the lack of a state budget.
The more than eight-month conflict surrounding Illinois’ state budget has forced politicians to look seriously at which programs to fund and which ones to cut.
If passed, SB 2043 will provide $397.1 million to MAP grants. The bill was passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives on Jan. 28 and was sent to Rauner’s desk for approval on Feb. 16. Rauner has 60 days to make a decision to either sign, veto or amend the bill.
Students chanted, “Two, four, six, eight, we just want to graduate” and “Money doesn’t grow on trees, sign SB 2043.”
Former Gov. Pat Quinn attended the rally to stand with Illinois students.
“Eighty-six percent of MAP recipients stay in Illinois and make Illinois a better place,” said Quinn.
DePaul University graduate student Chris Witting said MAP grants are critically important for all Illinois college students.
“Over 100,000 middle-class and low-income students rely on those grants to help them go to school,” said Witting. “It’s something that the governor can’t ignore.”
More than 2,000 students at Loyola and almost all Arrupe College students depend on the MAP grant each year.
Philip Hale, vice president for Government Affairs, organized Loyola rallies for the MAP grants and said he thinks it’s important to get the message out.
“The goal of all people in Illinois who are supporting the MAP grant is to make sure everyone in Springfield understands it’s a critical program for real students,” said Hale. “I think the governor heard our message loud and clear.”
In an email sent to the Loyola community Feb. 8, interim President John Pelissero asked the entire student body to call, tweet and connect with Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to persuade him into signing legislation to fund the MAP grant.
In his email, Pelissero encouraged students to take part in the statewide #MAPMatters Campaign, which included four days of outreach via phone and online. Additionally, Loyola hosted MAP advocacy events on Feb. 12.
Student Maria Solis, a secondary education and English double major and MAP recipient, said she worries that the recommended efforts won’t be enough to change Rauner’s mind. She said she understands that cuts need to be made to get Illinois state finances back on track but is upset that Rauner would cut funds needed specifically for higher education.
“The fact that the governor wants to veto a bill that is going to help thousands of individuals to make a future — a future that will help the state of Illinois be better — for themselves just demonstrates how unaware our governor is about the cost of higher education,” said the 20-year-old junior in a statement to The Phoenix.
More details about Loyola’s MAP initiatives are available at luc.edu/mapmatters.