The Quad-City Times

MAP-ped out -- Students face loss of college funding

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A shortage of state funds mean fewer students are receiving some forms of financial aid, even if they are eligible.

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission recently announced that through July 1, it has received 54,686 eligible Monetary Award Program grant applications since the agency began denying eligible applicants due to exhaustion of anticipated funds on Monday, April 19.

Patty Williamson, director of financial aid at Illinois Valley Community College, said most of the students at IVCC who are eligible to receive MAP grants also receive Pell Grants.

"They should have the funding, luckily, to continue their education, cover tuition and help with book expenses (even without the MAP grant)," she said. "What hurts is that they don't have any additional funding to help pay for outside living expenses."

Often, she said, that means students must take out loans, cut back on the number of classes or even postpone their education. Community colleges often feel the pinch from loss of such funding sooner than four-year institutions because community colleges have more non-traditional students — older students who are opting now to pursue an education because of a job layoff or other change in life circumstances. These students often are living on their own with families to support.

Of those denied the state's need-based college financial aid program thus far, ISAC said 67 percent selected a community college as their top choice on the 2010-2011 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is the form used to apply for MAP and federal student aid.

"The good news is that the recent budget signed by Governor Pat Quinn will provide MAP grants for those eligible students that completed the FAFSA prior to April 19," said ISAC Executive Director Andrew Davis. "Unfortunately, due to the state of the economy, more people are qualifying for aid, so we are on pace to set a record for denied MAP applications this year and will likely deny more students than we serve due to the unprecedented demand."

The agency projects the eligible applications received after the April 19 suspense date will far exceed the 120,000 eligible students denied MAP grants for the 2009-2010 academic year. However, ISAC encourages students complete the FAFSA in order to qualify for federal grants and loans in addition to possible institutional financial aid.

Williamson said her department advises students to complete the FAFSA forms prior to April 15, to coincide with income tax filings since information on that filing is needed for FAFSA. She will continue to urge students to file as early as possible.

"Cuts are going on across the board," she said. "We're not immune to further action down the line."