MAP Grant Priorities Change
Tens of thousands of students in our state depend on it to help pay for college. But whether they will able to continue to take advantage of it could change. It is the result of rising tuition fees, increased demand for financial aid and less money available to give out.
The Monetary Award Program Task Force spent six months reconstructing the way MAP grant funding will be prioritized. It is an effort to boost the education level of the general population and close the achievement gap.
Samaia Ahmad is one of tens of thousands of students statewide depending on a MAP grant to get through college. The junior at the University of Illinois - Springfield works two jobs and gets $4,000 a year through MAP.
"So that's a quarter of my tuition, which is great," Ahmad said.
Without that money, life would be different.
“Probably two or three other jobs it would add, or less classes I would have to take instead," Ahmad said.
That other path is not out of the question. Last year, 147,000 students received aid through MAP grants, but about the same number were turned down--not because they were not eligible, but because there was no more money.
“The challenge is that when you have fewer dollars then something has to give somewhere," John Samuels of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, which manages the program, said. "And the task force came to the conclusion that those resources ought to go to the neediest families."
The MAP task force also came to the conclusion that non-traditional students should take priority. That is, adults returning to college after years in the workforce.
“We're seeing more and more students, adult students, who are returning to school either to acquire skills or to obtain a certification," Samuels said.
Those students are more likely to finish their degrees, compared to someone coming to college right out of high school. The MAP grant task force calls it an investment toward a goal of having more adults with a college education and less of an achievement gap.
“We do know that leaving half the students in need by the side of the road just doesn't seem fair or right," Samuels said.
These changes will not go into effect until the 2014-2015 academic year, and it is possible things will get better by then if lawmakers allocate more funding for MAP grants in future budgets.
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