The students of Illinois are on the move, pestering their state legislators to fully fund Illinois’ Monetary Award Program (MAP), a student aid fund based on need set to run out January 1st. MAP funding was cut by $200 million earlier this year due to budget concerns, leaving 270,000 current students with half or no assistance for the upcoming Spring semester. The MAP grant is comparable in size to the Stafford Loan (at $2,500 a semester), but unlike the Stafford, the student doesn’t have to repay the MAP grant. The timing for this budget cut couldn’t be worse. Lending is tight, and the unemployment rate in Illinois is at 10%.
Andrew Davis, the executive director of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, says many of these students are the first in their family to go to college, and they’ve been making good use of MAP grants every year.
“To abandon them now is to really take that previous investment and flush it down the toilet.”
“Generally speaking, the recipients of the MAP grant in Illinois are in the bottom 40 percent, by income, of the state’s population.”
Governor Quinn held a rally at the University of Illinois in Chicago (UIC) campus yesterday, and addressed Northern Illinois University (NIU) students on the 25th. Quinn will be traveling all over the state in the following weeks, speaking at various universities, including Loyola University on October 9th. I myself was a recipient of the MAP grant last year, and was relieved to not have to borrow additional funds from Sallie Mae and their devilishly high interest rates.
Funding for the MAP grant will be addressed in the upcoming General Assembly veto session, which takes place October 14th- 16th and October 28th- 30th. There are a variety of ideas floating around to fund MAP, from increasing the income tax, closing corporate tax-loop holes, a tax amnesty program (a legitimate plan from the Republicans), and raising the cigarette tax. Illinois just implemented a tax hike of two dollars on cigarettes earlier this year to help lower the state budget deficit . Illinois has also seen a 25% tax increase on alcohol, soft drinks, candy lacking flour, and selected personal hygiene products to repair bridges, roads and schools. I honestly don’t think raising taxes again on cigarettes will be helpful. You’ll either get more people to quit or more out-of-state buying, either way, reducing the money generated from this tax increase.
Students and supporters of the MAP grant will be staging a rally on October 15th outside of the Capital Building in Springfield. To find out how you can help, go here.