Lack of State Budget Creates Financial Aid Crisis for Low-Income Students

Students advocate for success lobbying for financial aid with the late IL State Rep Gohlar
Students advocate for success lobbying for financial aid with the late IL State Rep Gohlar

No State Budget Creates Financial Aid Crisis

for Low-Income Students

by Amanda Collins
Defender Guest Contributing Writer 
“130,000 College students in Illinois are on the brink of a crisis that no one is talking about”
These are the low-income students who were counting on the state’s Monetary Award Program (MAP) to afford tuition payments. But with the state budget at a grinding halt, they face the threat of paying back thousands of dollars in financial aid that they were promised.
If money for MAP isn’t appropriated in the next couple of weeks, those students will face a terrible decision.

Students advocating the state support of education

MAP gives assistance to students who demonstrate financial need, and I know firsthand the difference that it can make. As a low-income student, I often struggled to balance my course load while working several part time jobs. I often joked about adding the title “lab rat” to my resume, because whenever I wasn’t in class, or working as a cashier and Resident Assistant, I would participate in various research opportunities at my institution to earn extra money.
But I couldn’t have even afforded to be a struggling college student without MAP. It was with this financial support that I was able to become a college success story: this winter I was able to walk across a stage, accept my diploma, and become a proud college graduate.
Of the 278,000 students who meet the need based requirements to qualify for MAP coverage, less than half are offered aid. And now, because Governor Rauner vetoed one spending bill containing appropriations for higher education and he and lawmakers in Springfield have been unable to compromise, MAP grants that have already been promised are completely unfunded.
This means even those students who qualified for assistance and were promised a grant may not receive it. For some, being told they won’t get MAP will mean dropping out; they wouldn’t be getting this assistance if they could afford to pay for college through other means.
I feel lucky I graduated with my bachelor’s degree before the current Illinois budget crisis. But being afforded the opportunity to earn a college education should not come down to luck.
Everyone should have the chance to work hard, make sacrifices, and create their own college success story. The governor and lawmakers owe it to college students to pass a budget.

Amanda Collins is a Program Coordinator at Women Employed, a 42-year-old advocacy organization that  mobilizes people and organizations to expand educational and employment opportunities for America’s working women.

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