While a recent package of legislation approved by the Illinois General Assembly does some good things for state universities and colleges, it doesn’t guarantee four years of Monetary Assistance Program grants.
Lynne Baker, Managing Director of Communications for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, said a couple of conditions apply for students who want to renew MAP grants in succeeding years.
“Students still must apply every year,” she said, “and, while we would very much like it, there is no continuing appropriation for MAP.”
She said HB 5020 does provide additional certainty to returning students with financial need by giving them priority access to MAP funding. Returning students will have to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Assistance, of FAFSA, by the priority funding date each year. Then, if they are still eligible for MAP grants, they’ll move to the front of the line for available funds.
“Assuming that the state has appropriated funding for MAP,” Baker noted. “MAP, like most state programs, is still subject to the annual appropriation of funds by the General Assembly and Governor. So awards are still subject to appropriation, but returning students will now have priority access to funding.”
She said the commission’s biggest concern is that the interpretation of the bill as a four-year guarantee of MAP has been construed to mean that students need only apply once for the grant.
“That is not the case,” she emphasized. “We are concerned that the confusion around this may lead some students to think they don’t need to complete a FAFSA every year, which would be a great disservice to them — especially since they will not only need to file it for MAP, but the FAFSA is also how they access Pell Grants and other aid each year.”