MAP grant race starts for college students around Illinois

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Every year college students around Illinois race to submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to receive Monetary Award Programs (MAP) grants from the state. MAP grants are given on a first-come, first-served basis with funds often running out before the official application deadline. Because of this, DePaul has taken efforts to ensure that students know they need to apply as quickly as possible.

“SGA has worked to get the message out in as many ways as possible,” Casey Clemmons, the president of the Student Government Association, said. “We felt it was important to have the message on D2L because we believe students visit D2L more often than Campus Connect.”

Students will see urgent messages greeting them as they log into Campus Connect and on their D2L homepage telling them to be sure to file their FAFSA to be eligible for the MAP grant.

In addition to the urgent messages online, SGA will be holding two events in the first week of February in the Student Center to answer questions about the MAP grant. The office of Financial Aid will also be contacting students known to be reliant on financial aid to make sure they have applied.

MAP grants are crucial to students who are dependent on financial aid for their education because they do not need to be repaid.

“Without MAP grants many students who are struggling to pay for school would not be able to continue their education,” Sarah Rens, the SGA vice president, said.

“If we are aware of a student in need of financial aid and they are forced to leave DePaul because they haven’t been able to find it, we have failed them,” Patricia O’Donoghue the Interim Provost of DePaul University, said. “It’s crucial that we keep [MAP grants] in front of our students eyes.”

“Last year DePaul estimated MAP funds would run out in March and were spot on,” Rens said. “February 15 is when DePaul is estimating that funds will run out this year.”

Last year 854,397 students in Illinois applied for the MAP Grants, while only 377,207 were deemed eligible, and only 140,000 students, 37.4 percent of eligible students, received awards, according to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. The average award given was $2,360 per student.

ISAC data also shows that the number of applications for MAP grants has continued to grow over the last 15 years. The number of applications in 2013 more than doubled the number of applications in 1999.

Last year, 4,500 students at DePaul received aid from the MAP grants, roughly 1 in 5 students who attend the university.

Roughly 7 percent of the students who received aid from MAP grants last year were forced to return a portion of the money awarded to them due to an error by the ISAC. DePaul was able to pay the difference for the students, however, to ensure they all were given their full financial aid.

SGA and DePaul University, working in coordination with other colleges and the Illinois Board of Higher Education, are planning a trip to Springfield to petition state legislators to increase MAP funding. The trip to Springfield will be in April and will help ensure that MAP grants do not get cut due to shortfalls in the state’s budget.

The filing period for the 2014-2015 academic year began Jan. 1, giving students less than two months to file before funds run out.

If students do miss out on the MAP grants they can still apply for the Federal Pell grant, which also does not need to be repaid.