Students stand up, demand their MAP


Lou Foglia

Students Amanda Hamrick (left)and Cameron Hubert (right) represented the college’s Student Government Associaton and briefly led the crowd outside the Thompson Center Feb. 16.

By Campus Reporter

“Hear our chatter! MAP matters!” “Money doesn’t grow on trees, sign SB2043!” “Rauner, don’t be a downer! Sign SB2043!” Chanting slogans loudly, a group of students from more than 10 Chicago area colleges, including six Columbia students, stood outside the Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St., Feb. 16 protesting Illinois’ unfulfilled promise of distributing Monetary Award Program grants.

The crowd, estimated at more than 100 students, some of them holding signs saying, “I am MAP,” and “Hear me. Fund Me,” gathered to demand Gov. Bruce Rauner sign a bill focused on releasing stalled MAP grants. The grants are funds that do not have to be repaid and are awarded to Illinois residents who attend approved Illinois colleges and demonstrate financial need. 

Illinois has been operating without a functional budget since July 1, 2015, jeopardizing the college education of thousands of students across the state, including more than 1,800 Columbia students who receive the grant aid, as reported Oct. 5, 2015, by The Chronicle.

The General Assembly passed the bill, which has yet to be signed by Rauner who has vowed to veto it. 

“[Do] you think you work hard enough? Do you deserve this [educational] right? Do you deserve this privilege?” cried Amanda Hamrick, interactive arts & media junior and vice president of  Columbia’s Student Government Association, as she stood in the middle of the crowd of students with a megaphone to voice her opinions.

On Feb. 9, a week before the rally, which was attended by students from such other schools as DePaul University, Loyola University and Dominica University, President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim announced during an SGA meeting that the college will advance the MAP grant funds in an effort to protect students. 

Kim said he could not tell exactly how the college’s MAP disbursement would unfold because the administration was still considering options. 

“We are also paying close attention to what the state is doing and Columbia—like all other institutions—is currently involved in some up-front and also some behind-the-scenes advocacy because we are trying to get the state to understand how important this is,” Kim said. “First step, the funds will flow.” 

The office of Student Financial Services sent an email to students Feb. 10 following Kim’s announcement stating it will disburse MAP grants for the 2015–2016 academic year in hopes the state will fulfill its commitment to students by reimbursing colleges and universities.

The email announced that MAP disbursements for the Fall 2015 Semester had already begun and that the Spring 2016 MAP grants will be distributed during week five of the term, starting Feb. 21.

“If a student has an overall credit balance on his or her account once the MAP Grant disbursements are completed, a refund will be issued,” the SFS email added. 

As of Feb. 16, some students had already received another email from SFS indicating an account refund was processed and issued Feb. 12 for the Spring 2016 Semester.

Josephine Breytsprak, a junior cinema  art + science major, said she felt relieved when she received the email. 

“I can call my mom and tell her that we’ll be OK now,” Breytsprak said. 

However, Breytsprak said she still remembers the uncertainty she felt last semester regarding the  MAP grants and how she regularly emailed SFS explaining her concerns and asking for more information.

“I started panicking because I was counting on that money, and I didn’t know if it was ever going to come,” Breytsprak said. 

She also said some of her savings from three summers of work and money she borrowed from family members helped her through that time, but it was not enough. 

“I get straight A’s. I have good grades and I would be sitting in class not paying attention. I’d be … worrying if I was going to be able to pay for my apartment or not,” Breytsprak said. 

Breytsprak also said she appreciates the college going forward with the refunds because a lot of students needed them, not just her.

“If I didn’t have this, and I didn’t have my scholarships from the school, I wouldn’t be able to go to Columbia,” Breytsprak said. “I’m so happy that this is going to be over soon.” 

Former Gov. Pat Quinn made an appearance during the rally, showing solidarity with students by hugging one of the student leaders and holding a “MAP Matters” sign as students cheered his comments. 

“Everybody here who has a MAP grant qualifies for that grant [and] they have a promise from the state of Illinois that cannot be broken,” Quinn said. 

Hamrick said the college is covering its students’ MAP grants, but students had the responsibility to be present at the rally and support other colleges. 

“Injustice somewhere is injustice everywhere,” Hamrick said. “If one college isn’t getting their MAP grant funding, all colleges are not getting their MAP grant funding.” 

Hamrick said she believes it is Columbia’s obligation to cover these funds because they should share student burdens along with success. Hamrick said though she is not personally affected by MAP grants, the entire SGA Senate and many of her friends are, which causes anxiety when they discuss their annual Lobby Day to talk with state congressman.

“They’re so scared a person is going to look them in the face and just say no,” she said. “They don’t know how to emotionally handle that because they don’t even know why their education should be questioned.” 

Brian Danzy, a sophomore music major, said he did not know he was affected by the lack of MAP grants until last week, when he went to the SFS office and realized a part of his tuition was not being covered. 

He said he later found out about the rally and decided to participate to advocate for change. Danzy said he appreciates  the MAP grant coverage, but does not feel like it is Columbia’s responsibility to cover financial holes left by the state.

“They’re hoping that the actual state will step in and do their job,” Danzy said. “That’s what I would like to see happen.” 

Danzy said it is important to attend these types of events, even if Columbia is responding for the state, because it is important to think long-term and, at some point, Columbia’s funds might run out.

Sarah Shaaban, staff director of Student Organizations and Leadership who served as a marshal for the rally, said she had anticipated more Columbia students attending, but the fact that many of them are in class affected participation.

“A student is a student, and [a] MAP grant means access to an education,” Shaaban said. “Just because right now it’s being covered that doesn’t mean in the future it will be covered…. It’s important as a citizen to act when something isn’t being just.”