Statewide MAP grant funding to decrease

By Campus Reporter

Though statewide funding for the Monetary Award Program grants—a sum of money given to college students by the state government—will decrease, affecting thousands of students’ financial aid, those at Columbia should see very little impact due to the college’s efforts to increase scholarship funding.

Approved by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner in April, the decrease in MAP grant funding is a result of the state’s attempts to balance its budget, said Cynthia Grunden, assistant vice president of Student Financial Services. 

Grunden said the state has reduced the MAP budget by $8.4 million, which means 3,000 students statewide will not receive grants. However, no changes will be made to grants already awarded to students for the 2014–2015 and 2015–2016 school years, according to Grunden.

“It’s not really affecting students in any meaningful way, at least not yet,” Grunden said. “We don’t know what’s in the future.”

Students who applied for the MAP grant before the 2014–2015 or 2015–2016 deadline through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid will not see any changes to the amount of money they will receive, Grunden said. She said the only difference will be that students who could have possibly received aid from an additional release of funds will no longer have that opportunity.

“What sometimes happens is the state—after they’ve cut [the time to apply] off and start paying students—they have some additional funds they can release and then they’ll sweep up a few students who [applied] after that deadline and give them that award,” she said. “That is what’s being eliminated, that potential additional release of funds. It’s not quite as scary. Students who might have gotten awards are not going to get them but those students don’t even know who they were.”

According to Grunden, 1,923 Columbia students received $7.3 million in total MAP grants during the 2014–2015 academic year, compared to the $9.2 million that 2,515 students received during the 2012–2013 academic year.

The decrease in MAP support is caused by increasing earlier deadlines for MAP every year, Grunden said, adding that students should submit a FAFSA as early as possible in order to avoid missing the deadline.

“The state doesn’t tell us in advance what the deadline is for MAP,” she said. “Instead they monitor how close they are to spending what they have and then they cut it off. Students really need to apply early, and the ones who didn’t are the ones who miss out.”

Student Government Association members traveled to Springfield, Illinois, on April 22 to lobby for legislation that would increase MAP funding. The six SGA members who attended spoke with state representatives and senators, said Sara Kalinoski, SGA president and sophomore art and materials conservation major.

Kalinoski said SGA advocates for college affordability and seeks to spread awareness about filling out the FAFSA early enough to receive MAP grants so that the students will be less affected by the statewide defunding.

“[MAP is] something very important that students should be able to continue to have, and there should be more money getting put into it,” she said.

If the defunding continues, students in the future could be impacted more dramatically, Kalinoski said.

“It’s going to get harder and harder for students to go [to college],” she said. “That’s why a lot of schools are continuing to lobby every year.”

Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Success, said college affordability is an issue Columbia students have been trying to overcome. However, the college’s scholarship budget has dramatically increased as state aid has decreased, Kelly said.

Nearly 50 percent of undergraduate students in the Fall 2014 Semester received Columbia scholarships compared to approximately 25 percent in 2010, Kelly said. He added that he estimates 60 percent of students will be receiving financial support from the college in the Fall 2015 Semester.

“Almost all of the college’s additional resources over the last several years have gone into scholarships, which have dramatically increased,” Kelly said. “What you’re seeing with that is a significant increase in retention [and] graduation rates.” 

According to Kelly, the college has made a commitment to increasing the budget dedicated to scholarships by increasing that area of the budget from $17 million to $38 million since 2011.

Kalinoski said the increase in Columbia’s scholarship budget is a positive step in providing affordability opportunities.

“That’s the main thing that should be happening—increasing support through scholarships,” she said. “The MAP affects everyone—not just Columbia—but having an increase in scholarships can counter the decrease in MAP funding.”