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State Grants to Neediest Illinois College Students Ending Soon

September 29, 2009

CHICAGO - Tens of thousands of college students in Illinois who can least afford it have been told that they will get no more tuition funding from the state for the spring semester. The Illinois Monetary Award Program, known as MAP, will be out of money by January because of budget cuts, and students are showing up at town hall meetings on campuses across the state to tell lawmakers that without the help they'll have to drop out, many in their senior year.

Andrew Davis, the executive director of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, says many of these students are the first in their family to go to college, and they've been making good use of MAP grants every year.

"To abandon them now is to really take that previous investment and flush it down the toilet."

Davis says the stories the students have been bringing to the town hall meetings have been heartbreaking. One student, whose parents are both unemployed, has been struggling to make it to graduation day.

"This young lady is in her senior year at Illinois Wesleyan. She is working three jobs in addition to carrying a full load of courses. If she has the money, will graduate this spring and be an RN."

Students look forward to receiving, on the average, 2500 dollars in state grant money each semester. For most students who are eligible for MAP grants, Davis says, that's a lot of money to raise by the spring semester.

"Generally speaking, the recipients of the MAP grant in Illinois are in the bottom 40 percent, by income, of the state's population."

Even though students who get MAP grants are from the lowest-income families in the state, Davis says many more may suffer. When colleges lose students they raise tuition on others or cut programs. State lawmakers are expected to look for ways to restore the MAP grants during the veto session which begins October 15th.

Governor Pat Quinn will be holding a town hall meeting today at the University of Illinois-Chicago to hear from students who are in danger of losing state grants in the spring, and more such meetings are planned around the state in the coming days.

More information is at illinoiseducationassociation.org

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL