Students, administration rally for MAP Grants

By CiaraShook

Organizations and students throughout Illinois have been working to save the Monetary Award Program grant for the spring 2010 semester.

After the $2.1 billion cut in MAP grants was carried out in early August, more than 130,000 Illinois students are scrambling to fill the gap in tuition costs.

According to Student Financial Services, as many as 20 percent of Columbia students will not receive their MAP grant funding for the spring semester. Columbia places third behind DePaul University and Loyola University as private institutions in Illinois with the most money being cut, totaling more than $5 million in MAP grant funding.

Shelly Benson,  a junior photography major, said her mother usually helps pay for her tuition, but has recently been diagnosed with cancer and cannot help.

“We lost a lot of money,” Benson said. “We’re in debt right now and I didn’t even think I was going to be able to go to school anymore.”

This fall, Columbia has joined with other public and private colleges in Illinois before the General Assemby’s veto session in October, asking legislators to secure the second half of the MAP grant.

Jessica Valerio, president of the Student Government Association, said the SGA is encouraging students to become educated on the issue and to contact legislators.

“We want students to feel comfortable writing letters, calling [legislative] offices,” Valerio said. “We want to help in the development of students feeling comfortable, feeling educated about the facts and knowing what they’re going into—what they’re actually after.”

Gov. Pat Quinn is hosting a forum at the University of Illinois at Chicago on Sept.  29, inviting all Illinois students to voice their concerns and for Quinn to hear students’ side of the MAP grant funding.

“[SGA is] absolutely going to be in attendance with as many students as we rally,” Valerio said. “It’s something that we’re willing to do.”

Student Financial Services asks Columbia students to regularly check their Loop e-mail accounts because that is how SFS will notify them with updates pertaining to MAP grant allocation.

“We are sending information as we get updates about the progress of the grant,” said Jennifer Waters, executive director of Student Financial Services. “We’re very hopeful that at least some funding will be restored in the next few months.”

Columbia President Warrick L. Carter is the secretary-treasurer of the Federation of  Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities, which is currently taking action along with students and institutions across the nation to have MAP funding fully reinstated.

“[Columbia is] in a great position and he’s a really great contact to have,” Valerio said.

Student Government Association, like other student organizations across Illinois, is working with FIICU for a rally on Oct. 15 in Springfield, Ill. to save the MAP grant.

Valerio said the biggest problem FIICU faces on lobby day is the number of people and organizations that will be in Springfield.

“There’s going to be many other lobbies and organizations fighting for that same money that we’re fighting for, for different issues,” Valerio said.

Quinn is holding a round-table discussion in the governor’s mansion on the morning of lobby day.

“I’m sure that we will have a handful of SGA members sitting at that round table,” Valerio said.

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission has built an online portal inviting students, parents and administrators to take action at The Web site features media, a resource section containing a press kit, press releases, relevant statistics about who receives MAP grants and plans of action students can take to have their voices heard. helps those concerned about the funding cuts to sign a petition, print fliers, organize rallies, write letters to legislatures, make the issue the topic of conversation and write a letter to the editor.

We encourage people at all schools to get involved,” said Paul Palian, director of communications at ISAC. “[Schools should] let their students know the importance of these grants.”

Illinois legislators will meet for a veto session in Springfield in October to decide whether to replenish the MAP grants for the spring semester.