DePaul MAP recipients face uncertain future

Gov. Bruce Rauner gives a thumbs up after giving his first speech as governor on Monday Jan. 12, 2015 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield, Ill. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
Gov. Bruce Rauner gives a thumbs up after giving his first speech as governor on Monday Jan. 12, 2015 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield, Ill. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
Gov. Bruce Rauner gives a thumbs up after giving his first speech as governor on Monday Jan. 12, 2015 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield, Ill. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
Gov. Bruce Rauner gives a thumbs up after giving his first speech as governor on Jan. 12, 2015. In his speech, Rauner urged legislators to make “choices about what’s best for the next generation, not the next election.” (Photo courtesy of NANCY STONE/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

The reminder is on every computer monitor on both campuses. Blue and white posters with the #MAPMatters logo demanding the attention of the 23,799 students at DePaul. Try logging into Campus Connect and a yellow box reminds students that what is going on in Springfield will directly affect us. When Inoticed the #MAPMatters campaign started by SGA, which begins, “Over 5,000 students rely on the MAP grant at DePaul,” a slight chill ran down my back. I am one of the 5,000 students who will be directly affected if the Monetary Award Program (MAP) ceases to exist.

The average annual MAP grant at DePaul is $4,000 and distributed to the population of low- and middle-income students. Those 5,000 students who come from low- or middle-class families are first generation college students often minorities, who can only afford DePaul’s high tuition cost because of programs such as FAFSA’s pell grant and the state MAP grant. I am one of those 5,000.

In a mass email, President Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, C.M., said, “The MAP program has been a key piece of Illinois’ higher education policy for decades. It is important to know that MAP enjoys strong bi-partisan support. The political fight impacting the budget is not due to MAP. However, until the impasse over unrelated issues is resolved, MAP remains unfunded and its future uncertain.”

Some of us were probably aware of it, others maybe not so much. But since July 1, the state of Illinois has been operating without a state budget. This means that a large amount of state services have been halted until a budget is passed. Among those halted services are financial aid programs at many college campuses across Illinois. It has been more than five months since any negotiation has been made regarding the state funding for universities. DePaul junior and MAP grant recipient Hajirie Kolijma learned about the MAP funding issue when she saw SGA’s #MAPmatters campaign posted around the Lincoln Park Campus.

“My MAP (grant) amount is usually $4,700 per year,” Kolijima said. “If that is gone I will have to take out loans and that would put me in a (really) bad position. Even if it seems like a small amount considering the rest of my financial aid, it changes my long-term plans completely.”

The MAP grant and state aid university funding impasse, leaves me and other students like myself with great anxiety and many unanswered questions regarding how we will pay for the rest of our time at DePaul. The $2,700 extra in financial aid provided by the MAP grant went a really long way. It covered those last thousand dollars that determined whether or not I could afford attending DePaul.

Longtime residents of this state, my parents and I will be directly impacted if the MAP program is to be cut. I will need to take out loans for the extra $2,000 to $3,000.

Those $2,000 may not seem like a big deal, but for me, Kolijima and the other 5,000 students relying on the grants to attend DePaul, MAP funding is necessary to continue our education.

I have grown up and lived in Illinois my entire life. I was born in Humboldt Park, Chicago and lived in Albany Park for a few years. Due to the high crime in the neighborhood, my family and I moved out of the city. I have lived in numerous suburbs ranging in varying economic statuses and my parents’ financial situation going up and down with each of the four moves we made.

(Graphics by Michelle Krichevskaya | The DePaulia, Photos courtesy of ILLINOIS.GOV)

I am a young, first generation, Latino minority with a low- to middle-class income immigrant parents who have done everything they could so I could afford DePaul’s expensive tuition. They did all of this so I can one day be a university graduate and a professional, active and informed citizen.

Currently, my tuition as an undergraduate communication major is $11,637 per quarter. With my financial aid package containing the DePaul Community Service Scholarship, the DePaul grant and both federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans, I have a remaining amount of $4,637 to still pay and it is almost the end of the Fall quarter. With a hold on my account and my inability to pay the university nearly $5,000, I am unable to register for classes next quarter, leaving me with the option to go part-time in order to pay only $2000, which I used to pay for a fulltime course load when the MAP grant was included.

SGA President Vanessa Cadavillo explained how the direct impact of the MAP program being eliminated would be a change in the dynamic of students attending DePaul.

“Low- to middle-income and first-generation students are not the only type of demographic who receive the extra help, but (if MAP is eliminated) it takes away the opportunity for them,” Cadavillo said. “Those 5,000 students have to find another way to pay that amount. They are stuck with answering that question or if they are going to be able to come back to DePaul at all.”

Those 5,000 students are your friends, your crush, your roommates, tutors, RA’s — and I could go on. I am one of those students who need to figure out my future after facing this unexpected cut in funding.

“Be assured that DePaul will continue to monitor this situation until it is resolved. The state’s political leaders have heard my voice many times. Now it is time they hear from more citizens who support this important financial aid program.” Holtschneider said to finish off the email.

What we are expected to do right now is plan ahead. We need a plan of action and come up with our own ways to fund the rest of our tuitions that the MAP grant used to cover. It’s not ideal, but this is an example of the benefits of being an informed individual.

For now, students should act as though next quarter the MAP grant will, in fact, disappear. We will then realize the enormity of those few thousand dollars that are missing from our financial aid package. Then —and this is just a prediction —we might turn to DePaul if there is any other alternate aid they can offer. Then, DePaul Central offers the special circumstances appeal form, which depending on the student’s specific financial situation can be offered aid. If it is not applicable to the student, a DePaul will not be able to offer any other type of support because they do not have the funds necessary themselves to do so.

But for now, there is no safe bet. We already know we should be calling our state representatives and Rauner himself to make our voices heard.

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