Of the $50 million Gov. Pat Quinn says he wants to put into Monetary Award Program scholarships, almost half could go to those at private universities.
While MAP funds are paid for with state funds, the awards don’t just go to students at public schools; all Illinois students qualify, including those enrolled in private institutions. The program’s goal to help all students may be the purpose of setting aside appropriations to both public and private schools, but a pending resolution in Springfield may cause some leaders to take a closer look at how state money is distributed to college students.
Students at all public universities, community colleges, non-profit private colleges and some for-profit universities in Illinois may be eligible to receive MAP grants. The program uses a formula that takes facts from a student’s FAFSA form in order to distribute funds to
In 2009-2010, the state paid close to $390.5 million for MAP grants, according to information from the Illinois Student Assistance Council. About $207 million went to public two- and four-year schools, $156 million went to private two- and four-year schools, and the remainder went to
proprietary and other institutions.
Of the $309.5 million that went to all institutions, about $302 million went to four-year universities. Public university students received 50.5 percent of those funds distributed to university students, while students at private institutions received 49.5 percent of that funding.
If Quinn’s proposed budget passes with his plan for an increase of $50 million in MAP funding—allowing for similar distribution of funds—private and proprietary institutions would receive close to 47 percent, or 23.5 million, of those extra MAP funds.
In the past there have been discussions at the state level about changing the way funds are distributed as well as limiting the amount that goes to private institutions, said Candace Mueller, assistant director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. She said no changes have been made from those discussions.
Mueller explained there is a pending resolution in the Illinois House of Representatives that would form a group to look at the specifics of the program’s funding. Filed on March 27, House Resolution 0897 proposes the formation of a task force which would study and suggest changes that may be made to the MAP program after 2015.
According to its text, the committee would look at possibly making MAP grants based in part on a school’s ability to improve the recipients’ progress at completing a degree.
SIU President Glenn Poshard said it would be hard to distribute the funding that way, because it is difficult to measure a student’s success in one way.
But Poshard said the way MAP money is distributed among private and public schools has been debated several times. In the end, though, he said the conversation concludes with tthe fact that taxpayer dollars go toward the program, and Illinois students come from taxpaying families.
According to information from ISAC, about 4,500 students at SIUC received MAP grants in 2010. Two other public universities, University of Illinois at Chicago and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, had a greater number of recipients. One private institution, DePaul University, had a greater number of recipients than SIUC.
While the amount of funding that goes to private schools has been debated, James Myers, director of financial aid at McKendree University, a private four-year school in Lebanon, said the top concern with MAP disbursement shouldn’t be where it goes, but to how many students can receive it.
In 2010, about 42,000 grants went to public-university students, and close to 36,000 went to private school students.
Myers said students are judged individually at all institutions for the possibility of receiving MAP grants.
“As far as a four-year institution, whether they’re private or public, everybody’s treated the same,” he said.
In recent years, sometimes as much as half of eligible students have not received the MAP grant because limited state funding has caused the ISAC to implement a deadline for which students may not receive funding if they file their FAFSA afterward.
Myers said students should work to meet that deadline, which he said the financial aid office has pushed for at McKendree.
He said the state informed the department March 16 that the cut-off date had been set for March 13. He said the advisers told students to go ahead and apply. About a week later, he said, they were informed the cut-off date had been moved back by a week, allowing more students to apply for funding.
Myers said the focus in MAP funding should not be on the school, but on the student. Limiting MAP funds to public-school students, he said, would restrict where Illinois students decide to get their education.
“It’s all about choices,” he said. “If you restrict [the MAP grant] you restrict where they can go.”