Walking into Maguire Hall on the Water Tower Campus, you’ll first notice the sun streaming through large windows along the north side of the building. Next, you’ll notice laughter from the second floor, where a group of four students are waiting for class to start.
These students attend Arrupe College of Loyola University Chicago, which is finishing its first year of operation in August. The college provides low-income students an affordable two-year education in an associate degree program infused with Ignatian tradition. The college aims to help students graduate with little to no debt, according to its website.
Arrupe is the first Jesuit two-year college.
But one mention of the Monetary Award Program grant (MAP), which provides state money to low-income Illinois college students, and the boisterous laughter of those four students turns to silence.
Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill that provided state money for universities and community colleges across the state on Feb. 19. About 2,400 of 11,079 undergraduate students who attend Loyola and 110 of 159 students who attend Arrupe receive MAP grants.
Only one of the four students agreed to talk with The Phoenix about how the unfunded grant is impacting his life and Arrupe’s financial future, but he declined to comment extensively on the topic.
Michael Minor is a first-year student studying social science and behavior at Arrupe. He said he is personally affected by Rauner’s decision to veto MAP Grant funding for students across Illinois. Minor and other students at Arrupe are also impacted by the part of the veto that funds Illinois colleges and universities that demonstrate financial instability.
“Without MAP grants, we can’t get to college, and if we can’t get to college, we can’t get a good job,” Minor said. “If we can’t get a good job, we are going to be homeless in the end.”
Minor isn’t the only student worried about MAP grant funding.
Asya Meadows is a first-year Arrupe student working toward a degree in arts and humanities. Although she doesn’t receive the MAP grant, Meadows told The Phoenix in an email that she is worried for her friends and the college since it relies on the funding to operate.
“Not having MAP grant forces Arrupe to find an alternative way to keep the low tuition low,” she said. “[It takes] away the ‘A’ in affordable [and] the school loses the most attractive part of Arrupe that makes [it] stand out from the rest. And [Arrupe] loses the interest of prospective students.”
Illinois colleges and universities have not received funds from the state since July 1, 2015 because of a stalemate between Republicans and Democrats in Springfield, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Rauner said he vetoed the bill because the state does not have $721 million in its budget. The governor said he wants to give colleges and universities aid based on academic performance, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The state owes Loyola approximately $10 million for MAP grants after the university used its own resources to cover the grant for the 2015-16 academic year, as The Phoenix reported April 20. About $350,000 of the $10 million is for Arrupe MAP recipients.
The funds to cover the MAP grants was provided by schools within Loyola, such as the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education, as well as donations and fundraising.
If MAP grants remain unfunded for the 2016-17 academic year, Arrupe will need about $1.2 million to cover the MAP grant deficit, Arrupe’s Director of Development Margaret Murphy Stockson said.
However, Murphy Stockson is unsure whether Loyola will cover the cost of the lost funds in the coming years if the MAP grants are not reinstated.
“I haven’t heard anything definitive for next year,” Murphy Stockson said. “Our hope is that [the MAP grants] come through.”
Father Stephen Katsouros, S.J., the dean and executive director of Arrupe, said the college will not close despite the lack of MAP funds.
“How could we possibly, in good consciousness, recruit students when the university is thinking about shielding this,” he said. “We are very invested in the success of our students, in our presence in Chicago and serving as a model for other institutions in replicating this in their own context.”
In a statement to The Phoenix, Loyola Interim President John Pelissero echoed Katsouros’ optimism.
“Loyola University Chicago remains deeply committed to Arrupe College,” Pelissero said in the statement. “Arrupe College fits perfectly with Loyola University Chicago’s mission of providing access to an excellent education and our educational model has already become one to watch and study among other postsecondary institutions.”
Katsouros said the lack of MAP grant funding is an issue all higher education institutions face — not just Arrupe.
“There are over 2,000 students at Loyola University Chicago who are eligible for state aid,” Katsouros said. “Arrupe is a small fraction of that.”
Arrupe students who receive MAP are awarded about $3,776, Murphy Stockson said. Tuition for Arrupe’s 2015-16 academic year is $12,500 plus a $410 student services fee, according to Arrupe’s website. MAP grants cover roughly 29 percent of tuition for recipients. The rest of the tuition is expected to be covered by Federal Pell Grants, which will bring the total cost of tuition to less than $2,000 per year, according to the website.
In addition to graduating from Arrupe with little to no debt, Arrupe students will have an associate degree in either arts and humanities, social and behavioral sciences or business.
Of the 159 first year-students at Arrupe, 45 percent are gradutes of Chicago Public Schools, 28 percent are gradutues of Chicago Catholic Schools and 27 percent are graduates of Chicago Charter Schools, Katsouros said.
Arrupe has a retention rate of 91 percent with 86 percent of students on track to finish their degrees on time next year, Murphy Stockson said.
Arrupe currently has more than 1,000 applications for 180 seats in the incoming 2016-17 class, Katsouros said.
“The goal is to enroll 200 new students in the freshmen class and 200 in the sophomore class,” Katsouros said. “We think we will achieve that goal in a few years, much more quickly than we thought.”
Pressure on the state government to fund MAP grants has not diminished. More than 200 students from Illinois universities and colleges gathered at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago to rally for the approval of the bill on Feb. 16. Loyola and Arrupe students participated.
“The secretary of education for the state of Illinois, Beth Purvis, has visited Arrupe, and our students have asked her point blank, ‘Where are we with the MAP grants?’” Katsouros said. “We are trying to keep the pressure on Springfield and our state leaders so they see that this is impacting higher education at Loyola and throughout the state of Illinois.”
Purvis visited visited Arrupe on the same day Rauner vetoed the funding bill. Katsouros said the secretary of education was enthusiastic about Arrupe’s high retention rate.
“I said to her, ‘Well, these are very preliminary,’” Katsouros said. “She said, ‘Well they are very good preliminary.’”
Meadows said the retention rate is high because the college operates year round. It keeps students such as herself focused on their academics, she said.
The first-year student and first-year college have gone on a journey together, Meadows said. It was fate when Arrupe representatives came to her high school to recruit students from low-income families with with the drive to succeed in college.
“It [seemed] like divine intervention,” she said. “Like a sign. And I [didn’t] ignore [it], I took it and ran with it.”