Co-Authored by Rory Dayton
Maria Solis, a junior at Loyola, is frustrated.
She’s frustrated because the Illinois state government has cut funding for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) Grant, a grant provided to Illinois residents based on financial need. It is uncertain whether funding will be fully restored.
For three years, Solis, a secondary education and English double major,has received a little less than $5,000 per year from the grant, which has funded her education. Consumed by her studies, Solis wasn’t even aware there were funding cuts to the grant.
These cuts are a symptom of Illinois’ almost eight-month-long lack of a budget, which has resulted in M AP funding problems that hit close to home for some 2,000 Loyola students awarded the MAP grant.
Close to 125,000 students statewide received this grant during the 2014- 2015 school year, according to Lynne Baker, the managing director of communication for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC).
However, M AP didn’t receive funds from the state for this school year, a significant difference from the $373 million in funding that was received last year. As a result, many recipients aren’t sure if they will receive any amount of funding, none of which has to be paid back. As a solution, Illinois State Senators are trying to pass Senate Bill 2226, which would provide $168 million to this program that would go to those who filed and accepted their grants first.
“We are hopeful there will be a resolution and MAP will continue to be funded,” said Baker.
Students who receive the grant, such as Solis, are both hopeful the grant regains funding and upset that it was cut. Solis called cutting the MAP grant “a class problem.”
“Most of the people getting these grants are low-income students,” said Solis. “[The Illinois government is] basically cutting a program that’s helping these low-income students get into college, get through college and graduate from college.”
Luckily for MAP recipients, senior level administrators at Loyola decided to credit these grants to students’ accounts for both the fall 2015 semester and the current spring semester. The maximum amount of aid given is $2,360 for each semester, according to Tobyn Friar, interim director of financial aid. On average, students who receive the grant receive around $2,800 annually, according to Baker.
These credits mean the school does not physically have the money from the state at the moment to give to these students but is nevertheless putting that aid toward the students’ tuition to be paid by the state at a later date. It is not yet determined what will happen if the state does not come up with a budget. This credit system is not something every school has implemented.
“With the state and Congress not making progress, we made a decision that allowed for minimal impact on those affected,” said Friar.
Solis was grateful that Loyola made this decision.
“Based off of the principles of Loyola and the Jesuit principles that are tied [to the school], I feel like that was amazing, and I’m really thankful for it,” she said.
Some students who are not grant recipients, like junior history major Larry Geist, 20, said the decision to credit grants to students’ accounts is beneficial.
“I’d be happy that Loyola was giving out the grants if it was helping me pay for school,” Geist said.
Not all students agree. Heather Ogden, a sophomore marketing and economics double major from California, does not think Loyola should give out the grants without knowing when or how they will eventually be funded.
“It can put more pressure on the students receiving them,” said Ogden, 19. They may be concerned that they will eventually have to pay that money if the grants cannot be funded, she said.
History and international studies double major Morgan Visser agrees.
“I’d be concerned about getting the money in the end and counting on state aid,” said the 18-year-old first-year from Illinois who has experienced financial aid issues due to the Illinois budget impasse.
Both the ISAC and Loyola have received calls from concerned parents and students, a response that influences decision-making. ISAC urges students to speak with their financial aid offices to learn about their individual methods of dealing with this issue, according to Baker.
Loyola has advocated for MAP recipients by taking some students to Springfield and encouraging them to appeal to their state representatives, according to Friar.
As of Jan. 26, no decisions have been made at Loyola concerning next year’s grant credit procedure.