SGA attends meeting for MAP

By BenitaZepeda

On Sept. 23 at 2 p.m., the Student Government Association traveled to the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Student Center West for a town meeting hosted by Gov. Pat Quinn to support the Monetary Award Program grant restoration for the spring 2010 semester.

Representatives from Chicago Public Schools, community colleges, public universities and private institutions all voiced the need for the MAP grant.

“The only way you can get things done in a democracy is when people band together—not for profit, but for a cause they believe in,” Quinn said.  “I believe in this cause and I know everyone here believes in

this cause.”

As The Chronicle reported on Sept. 21, a $2.1 billion cut in MAP funding was announced in August, which forced 130,000 recipients of the grant to find alternative funding for the spring 2010 semester in a very short amount of time.

At Columbia alone, the budget for the 2010 fiscal year projects a loss of an estimated $5.5 million in money students receive from MAP for the spring semester.

The cuts immediately affect continuing students that rely on the money for the spring semester, but the problem is far greater than that.  High school students, especially those who come from low-income families, may not be able to attend the college of their choice due to a gap in their funds.

Illinois students who are eligible for MAP or have received the grant are now facing the pressure of increased financial strain. Many students who spoke in the meeting said they may have to work more hours in addition to attending school full time, and some may not be able to attend college in the spring at all.

Without having money to support higher education, it could create a domino effect in the future by not educating members of society.  Citizens who are educated, statistically, are the highest contributors to society, Quinn said.  This is not only through the jobs they will attain with their degrees, but also through their ability to pay taxes.

“Jobs follow brainpower,” Quinn said. “The only way we were going to have good jobs today and tomorrow in Illinois is to have smart people.”

Quinn, who is a strong supporter of higher education and the MAP grant, said he is continuing to work on ways to restore funds to continue the program.

“The ultimate solution to this problem, this issue and this challenge, is we need more revenue in the state of Illinois,”

Quinn said.

The budget proposal pulls funds from three areas: a modest increase in income taxes, a proposed raise in cigarette taxes, which has already passed the Senate and is in the House of Representatives,  and correcting loopholes in the Illinois Tax Code.

“The tax code looks like Swiss cheese,” Quinn said.  “There are all kinds of loopholes that were carved out for special interests, powerful corporations. We have to have a fair tax system.”

The SGA has been working hard on rallying for the restoration of the MAP funds.  Sarah Luckett, vice president of communications, said they have been preparing for the rally in Springfield on Oct. 15.

“We’ve put a lot of work into the MAP grant initiative,” Luckett said. “We’re planning on going and participating in the rally in front of the educational building,  and we’re bringing down as many Columbia students that we can.”

Luckett said it was reassuring to hear that there is so much support from the governor and other state representatives.  The SGA was also pleased to see that various other schools have been rallying as well.

“We saw that all the other schools in Illinois are working as hard as our SGA, and they were showing their support and talking about what they are doing, which is strikingly similar to what we are doing,” said Luckett.  “However, we still need as much support from Columbia students, staff and administration as possible.”

Almost every student that spoke at the meeting on behalf of an educational institution had received funds from the program, and although there were no questions after the meeting, students and faculty felt confident in Quinn’s position to restore the program.

Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs, attended the meeting and was pleased to see the governor had such a clear stance on the restoration of the MAP grant.

“Clearly we have a governor that strongly supports re-instituting the funds to support MAP in the state,” Kelly said.  “That is very encouraging.”

Kelly agrees that students need to express the need to their legislators as well to get a positive result.

“I am very encouraged and impressed by the leadership and efforts of the SGA to take on this issue and to make sure students are engaged,” Kelly said.

Quinn, along with Illinois state Reps. David Miller and William Davis, said although they are working feverishly to find ways to fund the program, the way to success is through strength in numbers.

“I believe in grass roots organizing,” Quinn said.  “Just seeing the tremendous turnout today and people from all over, I know the power of citizens banding together.”