Budget woes may affect MAP grants

On DePaul’s homepage and on Campus Connect, a green warning advises students to apply for Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants before the deadline. And for good reason. MAP grants could be hit with cuts that may affect students with and withÔ_out financial aid.

MAP grants provide financial aid to roughly 1 in 5 DePaul students — a total of $22 million. MAP grants disÔ_tributed $387 million to approximately 150,000 Illinois college students this year, afÔ_ter getting cut from its high of $405 million in 2009. But with the Illinois budget stretched even thinner due to $670 milÔ_lion owed to the teacher pension system, MAP grants may be cut even further. Standard & Poor’s, a financial research company, recently gave Illinois the lowest credit ranking in the United States.

Casey Clemmons, Student Government Association vice president and head MAP representative for the organization, said Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is in strong favor of renewing MAP grants and has an affinity for DePaul since his father was an alum. But a cut to MAP grants would be “absolutely detrimental to DePaul,” as DePaul receives more MAP grant funding than any other private institution in the state.

“A common misconception is that it would only affect students who get MAP grants,” said Clemmons. “(SGA) is framing the situation as ‘Protect MAP, protect DePaul’ because it does affect everyone.”

DePaul’s Student Government Association will host a MAP Awareness Day Feb. 6 in the Lincoln Park Student Center.

In addition, MAP grants are an economic investment for Illinois since many DePaul alumni end up working and contributing back to the state’s economy, according to Clemmons. SGA is looking to restore MAP grants to its 2009 funding, although Clemmons said virtually every item in the Illinois state budget is in danger of being cut in some way. “I don’t see the issue getting resolved until the 11th hour, or even the 13th hour,” said Clemmons.

However, Paula Luff, DePaul’s associate vice president for financial aid, said it was highly unlikely that MAP grants will be eliminated entirely for next year and DePaul would have to come up with $22 million. In addition, DePaul has set up a contingency fund of $7 million in case of possible cuts to MAP grants.

“(The Illinois Student Assistance Commission) could just cut off the awards at any date,” said Luff. “We’re giving a suggested filing date of March 1, but it might be sooner.”

Anita Rosso, director of the TRiO student support services program at DePaul, said MAP grants are critical for many of the low-income undergraduates at DePaul.

“The way tuition packages are created, MAP grant money is very helpful,” said Rosso. “Anything that can be detracted from the tuition packages, if there is a reduction, could be a big problem.”

Luff said DePaul may not know the status of MAP grant funding in the Illinois budget until May. In the meantime DePaul is reaching out to students who rely on MAP funding, alerting them of a possible early cut-off date.

“We have a reasonable amount of money to work with in the contingency fund, however, students should apply as soon as possible to ensure they have a chance of receiving MAP funds,” said Luff.

Last year, MAP grants ran out of funding March 21, the earliest MAP grants had ever gone through their funding.