Under pressure from college students and administrators across the state, the Illinois general assembly passed a bill on April 22 funding 42 percent of this year’s MAP grants.
Knox is receiving about $500,000 — enough to cover this fall’s grants, according to Director of Government Relations Karrie Heartlein. Another Senate bill currently being reviewed in the State Senate could bring the overall funding total up to 54 percent, which would help Knox fund a portion of Winter Term’s MAP grants as well.
That measure, Senate Bill 2048, will need to make its way through the Senate, then the House and finally across Governor Bruce Rauner’s desk to be signed into law before June 30, when the fiscal year draws to a close.
“This is such an unusual year,” Heartlein said. “There’s no precedent for this kind of delay, this kind of uncertainty. [It] is really disconcerting and I think particularly for people who are waiting on close to $5,000 in aid, it’s very nerve wracking.”
Heartlein has helped lead efforts to pressure the legislature, including organizing letter writing campaigns and trips to Springfield for several rallies this year.
This Tuesday, she and President Teresa Amott visited the capital again to join many other college presidents in meeting with legislators, including Rauner and Speaker of the House Mike Madigan.
Heartlein said in email that the legislators expressed their support for MAP and explained that hearing how students are affected by MAP will make a difference when they cast their votes.
“It’s really that MAP is being held hostage to a number of other issues,” Heartlein said last week. “We can’t let our students suffer while the general assembly works out all these other issues.”
Junior Fabiola Cervantes is one of Knox’s 325 students who are still waiting on MAP grants promised to them last year by the state. Waiting all year has made Cervantes, who plans to study abroad in Argentina next fall, nervous about the coming term.
“If the state doesn’t give in [next year], my family’s going to have to pay,” said Cervantes.
Her dad and mom work as a welder and a cashier, respectively, and support her grandfather’s medical needs in addition to their children’s education. Her sister, who attends a community college in Chicago, is also waiting on state funding for her MAP grant.
Cervantes, who works in the Office of Financial Aid, appreciates the work that her boss and the office’s director, Ann Brill, has done to communicate with students and parents, keeping them up to date on the status of their grant.
Dean of Admission Paul Steenis, who also oversees financial aid, has been working with Brill’s and Heartlein’s offices to ensure that MAP recipients understand Knox will support them through this year, whether or not the state comes through with the remaining funds for winter and spring.
“It is potentially a significant amount of money. But again, our commitment is first and foremost to our students,” Steenis said. “These are the neediest students in the state of Illinois, these are the kids who have worked hard against all odds in many cases to graduate from high school, to get into a good college.”
Vice President for Finance Keith Archer explained that, if the state fails to fully fund MAP grants for the current year within the next seven weeks, the administration and Board of Trustees will make up the funds by drawing from either the endowment or from special reserves.
“We’re waiting to hear from the legislatures what’s happening and we’re hoping every day that the state will make good on its promise to students and their families,” he said.
Archer added that the school has been advised by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to create students’ financial aid packages with the assumption that MAP funding will be available next year.