DePaul president Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M. has released a statement promising the more than 4,500 students who receive Monetary Award Program Grant (MAP) funding full compensation from the university to the end of next year.
For the 2014-2015 school year, $373 million was awarded to financially disadvantaged college students from the grant, according to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. In light of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto last week, a large portion of these recipients might have to quickly find alternate funding for the rest of the current school year. The bill he vetoed, SB2043, was scheduled to provide $721 million for MAP funding, as well as other education spending. Though DePaul quickly prepared for further budgetary impasse complications by honoring MAP for both current and incoming students, other schools don’t have enough extra funding to do the same.
Schools funded by the state such as Chicago State University (CSU), Eastern Illinois University, Western Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, University of Illinois and Illinois community colleges are already in dire need of funding because of the complete lack of funds since July of last year. CSU, Illinois’ only major majority black college, said they are being pushed to close their doors entirely by March 1 unless the budget issue is resolved.
Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois hosted a gathering of representatives pf higher education to appeal for funding on the grounds that many schools will lose students, especially in low-income demographics.
According to TriStates Public Radio, Ann Behrens, vice president for academic affairs at Quincy University said, “the current budget impasse makes victims of our most vulnerable students, those who arguably have the most to gain from pursuing a college degree.” This was said at the event with the support of many other voices advocating for an end to the budget drain targeting education.
DePaul and other colleges in the Chicago area rallied to show their anger and unification over the MAP grant issue last week on Feb. 18 in the loop, chanting “Hear our chatter — MAP matters!” or “Rauner, don’t be a downer — Sign SB2043!”
Adriana Kemper, the executive vice president of operations of Student Government Association (SGA), was at the rally and explained that MAP matters because “One in five students here rely on MAP to pay for tuition, and it is extremely important for them to receive this because if they don’t receive it then everyone else’s tuition rises. We need a great education in order to be beneficial in the state in the future.”
The cross-college rally also shows how widespread support for SB2043 is. Alex Boutros of DePaul Impact group said, “it’s awesome because so many of these people who came here don’t actually receive the MAP Grant but they still came here in solidarity.”
Rauner’s “turnaround” legislation would extend $1.6 billion in spending for higher education, but would only be provided at the cost of passing the Unbalanced Budget Response Act, which would allow him the right to use designated education budget money for outside expenditures.
Kemper also said that SGA is still planning to go to Springfield on behalf of MAP grant recipients and speak with Illinois state legislators in the interest of bolstering higher education funding. SGA is also heading a postcard campaign to the state government, asking support for MAP grants.
DePaul sophomore Sam Peiffer explained his thoughts on the schools management of the case. “I appreciate that DePaul is going to make sure that students do not receive a reduction in scholarships for this academic year, and that’s great, but at the same time DePaul had about $43 million in excess revenue from this past year and I hope that DePaul chooses to reinvest that $43 million in revenue into those students who are losing MAP Grants.” Peiffer said.
“The tricky thing from a budgeting standpoint is, ‘well, what does the future look like?’ That’s not necessarily a commitment that the university could absorb indefinitely,” Executive vice president Jeff Bethke said on funding the MAP grant for future students.