Funding for higher education is a polarizing topic, especially during election cycles. This year, the status of the MAP grant and its redistribution will determine the fate of many college students all over Illinois — and the schools that are responsible for providing their financial aid.
One in five students at Knox are affected by the status of the MAP grant. That’s one in five of your peers and friends. It might be you.
So why is it not a bigger issue on our campus?
Last Wednesday, April 20, 11 spots were reserved to send students to a MAP grant rally in Springfield, Illinois. Only five showed up.
We recognize students are busy. School, extracurricular activities and work undoubtedly limit the amount of time we can dedicate to non-academic events. We also recognize that rallying for the MAP grant requires an informed political participation that is specific to Illinois. At a campus like Knox where almost half the student body comes from other parts of the world, Illinois politics are not necessarily obvious or well-understood. Even more, it can be uncomfortable to discuss socioeconomic status, especially in regards to our access to education.
The status of the MAP grants is a conversation that needs to happen among the student body.
Even for those who do not receive the grant, other students should be concerned about the financial state of their peers. If we consider the 325 students who receive aid and the $5,000 average grant amount, the school has a considerable amount of money that it will no longer be receiving from the state. What are the possible ramifications for other students? If Knox needs to keep up attendance, it’s possible we’ll see a rise in our tuition to shoulder the cost of external funding. Our endowment isn’t large enough to absorb the shock.
Even more, the unanticipated loss of revenue might force the college to reallocate funds. The thought of changing our curriculum and extracurricular activities begs the question: How important are these students?
They’re extremely important. These individuals are an integral part of the Knox community. They’re our peers. Recipients of the MAP grant are just as invested in their education as other students are. Why, then, were there only five people at the rally? Not only were these students able to voice their opinions, they also had the opportunity to meet with two Knox alums and witness the political process that goes into funding our education. We should be seeing the college advocate the importance of keeping such funding available for students and encourage students to support one another.
Students can begin by actually attending these sorts of rallies. Although voicing your opinion on social media is an important way to support those in need, taking the time to have a presence at rallies, demonstrations and protests conveys how important these issues really are. Voting is also a significant way students are able to participate and influence politics. Educating ourselves on these topic issues can already help us to become more involved. Regardless of how much these policies impact our education right now, how the funding is allocated directly represents our values as a society. Education is important, and so is every student.
*Data from Illinois State Assistance Commission (Graphic by Donna Boguslavsky/TKS)