Facing the possible loss of an estimated $445,000 in aid to students, Rend Lake College is supporting a state-wide effort to restore funding to the Monetary Award Program, the state's oldest need-based student aid program.
College leaders representing all of Illinois public and private higher education, universities and community colleges conveyed an urgent message when they met with Governor Pat Quinn Wednesday of last week to find a way to restore funding for the Monetary Award Program (MAP). The current state budget funds only the current fall semester for these grants and their recipients. Funding for the second semester does not exist, which brings up the very real possibility that thousands of Illinois' neediest college students may not be able to continue their education in the Spring.
The multi-sector alliance of higher education leaders is united in its support of the Monetary Award Program on behalf of all students. The alliance advocates the restoration of $200 million for MAP for the remainder of the state fiscal year. The FY2010 state budget provided for only half of the necessary funding for the current academic year, leaving a shortfall of $200 million in MAP funding.
According to Doug Carlson, Director of Financial Aid for Rend Lake College, the number of students receiving MAP funding at RLC dropped from Fall 2008 to Fall 2009. These students lost a total of $86,926 in MAP funds. This possibly was caused by the early May cutoff date to apply for MAP, he said.
In Spring 2009, RLC students received a total of $355,910 in MAP funding. With the current total lack of funding for the program in Spring 2010, no students will receive any MAP assistance. This inevitably will lead to many students opting not to continue their educations.
This could result in an estimated $445,000 in lost student funding this year. Carlson also noted that state funding for MAP has been stagnant since 2002.
John Erwin, the President of Illinois Central College in Peoria, represented the Illinois Council of Community College Presidents in the coalition effort. "In this economy, our state must recognize that student financial aid is a necessity, not only for traditional age students but for many displaced adults returning to college to upgrade their skills. The MAP grant is an investment in the neediest of Illinois students, and in the future health of Illinois' economy. I was encouraged to hear the Governor recognize this need in our meeting with him," said Irwin.
"The Governor clearly understood that this cut must be restored, and it must be restored this fall so that returning students can stay in school," according to John Peters, President of Northern Illinois University and the designated convener of the group of Illinois public university presidents.
"On behalf of Illinois neediest students, we urged the Governor to quickly find a way to restore the $200 million that has been cut from the Monetary Award Program (MAP)," said Charles Middleton, President of Roosevelt University and Chairman of the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities, the organization that represents private non-profit colleges and universities throughout Illinois.
According to an article printed in Friday's Chicago Sun-Times, Gov. Quinn said a key agenda item for him is to provide more money for MAP. The paper reported that 137,000 needy students who received MAP assistance this fall will get nothing this spring unless more money is provided.
"We have to work together on both sides of the aisle on making sure we have adequate money for our scholarships for our students for the second semester. The Legislature only provided enough money for the first semester," the Sun-Times reported Quinn as saying.