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Joliet Junior College helps students overcome state grant struggles

Survey shows colleges can’t keep fronting MAP funds

Published: Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016 10:52 p.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016 12:04 p.m. CDT
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State Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet

JOLIET – Nearly half of Illinois colleges responding to a recent survey indicated they would not put up their own money again this spring to help students struggling to pay for their education with grant funding tied up in the state’s budget impasse.

However, Joliet Junior College plans to front Monetary Award Program funds for students this spring semester. The program provides grants, which do not need to be repaid, to students who attend a MAP-approved school and demonstrate a financial need.  

Kelly Rohder, the college’s spokeswoman, said JJC officials will decide to continue providing the money on a semester-by-semester basis.

“It’s imperative that our students have all the tools and support they need,” she said.

Rohder said the college hopes to be reimbursed for the funds by the state, but doesn’t know whether it will be.

A survey from Illinois Student Assistance Commission – a clearinghouse for student aid – that was released Thursday showed that out of 84 colleges and universities, 41 schools reported they would not carry the MAP load for students once more this spring and about a dozen more haven’t decided. 

The deadlock over the state budget that should have taken effect July 1 will force needy college students to make some tough choices, the ISAC survey indicated. 

Illinois colleges put up $168 million of their own money to help students attend classes last fall because of the state budget impasse. 

For the fall semester, JJC applied $553,000 toward MAP grant students, Rohder wrote in an email. For the spring semester, $470,000 has been applied as of Friday, bringing the total JJC has fronted to more than $1 million, she wrote.

She said about 900 students at JJC are supported by MAP grants. 

She said without that funding for students, the longer-term impact would be on the workforce since people come to JJC to train and improve their lives

The popular, bipartisan MAP provided income-based grants totaling $373 million last school year. Although there wasn’t a state budget agreement when classes began again in August, three in five schools fronted the money out of reserves because state reimbursement typically doesn’t arrive until December. 

Overall, the ISAC survey found 58 percent of respondents credited MAP grants for the first semester. 

Six of 12 public universities fronted the money in the fall and will continue to. Just one in five community college respondents said it would continue paying this spring.

Of 31 schools that indicated to ISAC they would continue upfront spring payments, several said they’d pursue reimbursement from students if the state doesn’t come through; half said they were undecided on making students pay in such a case. 

“It’s obviously a serious situation,” said state Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, who heads the Senate Higher Education Committee. 

The committee held a hearing at JJC in September to gather testimony from students on the impact of the state budget impasse on their education. Students said at the time that without MAP funding, it would be difficult for them to continue to pay for their education. 

At McGuire’s request, ISAC reported that schools statewide had provided $168 million of their own money for the fall semester. He told The Associated Press last month several educators had asked him to pursue at least partial reimbursement.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has resisted the idea because he opposes “piece-meal” approaches to a budget deal without fundamental business-climate and political changes he seeks.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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READ THE SURVEY

To read the ISAC survey, visit shawurl.com/2cf7

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