SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The sound of protesting resounded through Illinois’ state capitol, even inside the General Assembly chambers.
A crowd of Illinois students gathered on the second floor chanting “Education is a right” and “Sí se puede” — “yes we can,” in Spanish as onlookers stopped to take photos. Even without signs, the aim of the protest was clear: show support for the Monetary Assistance Program, or MAP.
Of the nearly 1,200 people at Wednesday’s rally, five were Knox students. All are recipients of the Monetary Assistance Program grant, or MAP.
“I’m supposed to receive this grant, and a lot of people depend on it,” said freshman Zena Adad. “It’s really important. I’m just here for support and solidarity.”
Nearly 325 Knox students receive the MAP grant a year, and nearly $5,000 is appropriated per student, according to Karrie Heartlein, Director of Government and Community Relations. She organized the trip to Springfield.
But those students may not be receiving their grants next year if the state still doesn’t pass a budget.
Junior Marilyn Barnes has already signed her lease for next year. So if the Illinois government doesn’t continue to fund the MAP, she’ll be living in Galesburg, but won’t be attending Knox for her senior year.
If her brother Jeremy also decides to attend Knox, he’ll be in the same situation.
“That was one of my mom’s big questions,” she said.
Students receiving MAP funds this year were covered by the college, but that may not be the case next year.
Earlier, hundreds huddled under a tent outside the statehouse, fighting for protection from the rain, as their state representatives spoke to them about the importance of education and the MAP grant, which makes college affordable for nearly 130,000 Illinois residents attending school in the state.
“We’ve tried to meet the governor halfway,” Chair of the House’s Higher Ed committee Kelly Burke said to the crowd. Students waved signs that said “No future without funding” and “Save Higher Ed.”
Students from both private and public institutions spoke to the crowd about their stories, and how the MAP grant has helped them.
Ryan Jenkins, an Augustana student, told the crowd about the twenty-five percent of students at Augustana who receive the grant. He isn’t a MAP recipient.
“I cannot imagine our campus without those twenty-five percent of students. … They’re the future doctors and lawyers of our state.”
Because MAP funds are appropriated year by year, the amount of funds provided is never the same. Even if the state passes the budget, there’s no promise that funds will be allocated to MAP.
“It doesn’t always ensure that people who need it will get it,” Heartlein said. This was Knox’s fourth trip to a MAP rally.
She’s also been involved in letter writing campaigns, and introduced Knox students to senators Don Harmon ’88 and Julie Morrison ‘78. In January, President Teresa Amott encouraged students to look into Senate Bill 2043, a bill that would override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto on a bill that allocated MAP funds. She encouraged students to use the hashtag Map Matters on social media. The Illinois House failed to pass the bill in March.
Dozens of Illinois institutions made it to the rally, including Augustana College, Prairie State College and Dominican University. Dozens of students from St. Augustine donned matching t-shirts and sat near the front of the room. Only a handful were present from Eastern Illinois University — the state’s also cut EIU’s transportation budget.
Representative Bob Pritchard compared the budget to an old car he once had that drove, but wouldn’t last much longer.
“I’m hopefully that in the next 40 days, we’ll be able to pass a budget,” he told the crowd.