Education Desk: Rauner Rebuffs Plea For MAP Grant Funds

Jan 14, 2016

Legislation filed Wednesday asks the state to provide $168 million owed to low-income college students who were promised MAP grants last fall.

Thousands of students across the state rely on grants from the Monetary Assistance Program to pay up to $5,000 of their tuition and fees. But like most higher education allocations, MAP grants have been a casualty of the state's budget stalemate, now in its seventh month.

Lawmakers have filed at least three separate measures trying to fund MAP, but Governor Bruce Rauner's proposed budget would cut higher education funding by more than 30 percent.

The new plan in the Senate would require the state to repay colleges for floating MAP students through the fall semester. But as the bill was being filed, Rauner's office released a memo listing examples of college administrators' overspending.

State Senator Pat McGuire, a Democrat from Will County, acknowledged those issues.

"In the meantime,” he said, "while higher education warrants a review and potentially reform -- as just about every aspect of state government would seem to -- we can't throw 125,000 students overboard.”  

State Senator Bill Cunningham, a Democrat from Chicago, said students banked on the state paying part of their tuition. 

"They went out and took other loans, and put themselves at further financial risk based on a promise that the State of Illinois made to them to fund part of their costs with MAP grants," he said. "We are now pulling that promise away." 

A recent survey showed that scores of colleges plan won’t honor MAP grants for the spring semester unless they receive state funding. Some are allowing students to enroll, but the students will have to pay if the state fails to come through.

MAP grants are based on financial need. More than 125-thousand students are in the MAP program this year.

Many schools are allowing MAP students to enroll for the spring semester, but the students could be on the hook to pay if the money doesn’t come through.