The Office of Financial Aid is emphatically recommending that Knox students who receive MAP funding from the state of Illinois file their FAFSAs as soon as possible or risk losing thousands of dollars in aid money.
Director of Financial Aid Ann Brill received notice from the Illinois Student Assistance Commision (ISAC) last week announcing that MAP grant funds could run out at any time.
Although students can officially wait to file their FAFSAs until June 30, it has been several years since MAP funds lasted that long. Last year, the money ran out on March 13. The grants are given out on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“We don’t want students to miss the grant deadline, whenever it is,” Brill said.
MAP grants, or Illinois Monetary Assistance Program grants, allow low-income students to receive assistance to help pay for their education. Roughly a fifth of all Illinois undergraduates receive MAP funding, with about 18 percent of Knox students counting themselves as recipients. All students who are Illinois residents and file a FAFSA are considered for the grant. The maximum award last year was $4,968.
In the past, nearly every student who needed a MAP grant in the state was able to get one. In 2001, for example, not a single eligible student was either wait-listed or “suspended” because of a lack of funds. Applicants were able to apply as late as August some years and still receive money.
In contrast, last year 145,365 Illinois students were unable to get aid, roughly half of total applicants, reflecting the serious difficulties the program has run into in recent years.
Skyrocketing college costs, the state’s perpetual fiscal woes and tough economic times for Illinois students have combined to put serious pressure on the state’s ability to keep funding the program. A major task force called last year by the Illinois General Assembly to address the program’s long-term sustainability failed to recommend any major changes to the program.
“The overall problem is … there is more real need than there is capacity to meet that need,” task force member and associate vice president planning and budgeting at the University of Illinois Randy Kangas said.
A spokesman for the ISAC, John Samuels, told the Chicago Tribune that if the state gave grants to every eligible student who applied, it would cost $1 billion annually. The General Assembly appropriated $371 million for the current fiscal year.
Solutions continue to be proposed regularly. A current proposal put forth by State Sen. Chapin Rose this week seeks to save money by cutting off funding to students enrolled at for-profit colleges.
Such a law would do little to fix the program’s fiscal woes, as only around give percent of grant recipients attend such institutions.
Knox students who qualify for MAP grants can file their FAFSAs at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Students and families who have not yet completed their 2012 tax returns may use estimated figures in order to ensure consideration for MAP grant aid.
Questions about MAP grants should be directed to the Office of Financial Aid at 309-341-7149.