News - State's Failure to Deliver MAP Grants Throws Students Into Tailspin

State's Failure to Deliver MAP Grants Throws Students Into Tailspin

By Carla Morris

Robert Smith likes kids. He and his wife have three of them. In recent months, their children saw in Robert what many of us want our children to see in us: a “can do” attitude in the face of crisis.

A work-related accident compelled Robert to make a career switch and pursue teacher education at Greenville College. But now, another crisis—the refusal of state legislators in Illinois to deliver funding they had promised Robert—has dealt his family a blow.

Skilled Hard Worker Who Enjoys Developing Others

For years, Robert worked as a union painter/drywall finisher/wallpaper hanger. In 2012, however, he fell from scaffolding and crushed bones in his hand, wrist and lower arm. After multiple surgeries and physical therapy, Robert realized that he would never again endure the kind of physical labor to which he had grown accustomed.

He immediately enrolled in college to shore up his skills and credentials; he formed a plan. For Robert, teaching school made sense.

“As a painter, I enjoyed working with the apprentices and teaching them through my own experiences,” he recalls, “and outside of work my only hobby was coaching youth sports, so pursuing a degree in education felt like a natural fit.”

Working the Plan

Robert enrolled in GC’s Undergraduate Teacher Education Partnership (UTEP) program to earn his bachelor’s degree in teacher education and secure his state teaching license. UTEP offered a convenient path to a career that made sense. Robert and his wife mapped out how they could make it work if certain pieces fell into place. And, they did.

One of those pieces—promised state aid totaling about $4,500—would help cover the cost of his tuition for the 2016-17 school year. The award came from the State of Illinois’ Monetary Assistance Program (MAP). Buoyed by the promised help, Robert moved forward taking classes and checking off requirements on his way to certification and a degree. 

Trouble at the Finish Line

Approaching the end of his program, Robert has nearly achieved his goal. But now, another crisis looms. At this writing, the state has failed to deliver the funds it promised months ago.

Robert’s financial obligations, however, have remained the same. Like many other students, he has taken out an external loan to help fill the unanticipated gap. You can imagine the frustration and anxiety that accompanied that choice. 

“I hated to dig our family further into debt to pursue my own dreams,” he recalls.

Devastating Shortfall

For David Kessinger, director of financial aid at GC, Robert’s hardship is Save MAP-2among those that come immediately to mind as he scrolls through emails searching for updates about MAP from the state. He finds one, but it contains nothing new:

“The state’s budget impasse continues and appropriations for MAP Grants are still unknown.”

(Pictured on this page, last year's awardees of MAP Grants conducted a letter writing campaign to persuade state legislators to release funds it had promised them at the start of the school year. The same scenario of non-payment is unfolding this year.)

Unthinkable Cost: Today's Crisis Impacts Tomorrow's Enrollment

Save MAP-3Last year, the State’s failure to deliver promised funds in a timely manner created a financial crisis for about one third of GC’s students. This year, about the same number of students including Robert, have been thrown into a tailspin.

Observing from the wings are college-bound high school students and their parents.

“The vast majority are not even looking at schools in the state anymore,” observes Ashley Chaney, financial aid advisor at Greenville College. Increasingly, she fields questions that she has never needed to address before: “Will this scenario of unfulfilled promises repeat itself next year?”

Chaney’s unfortunate answer: It’s likely.  

Did You Know?

  • Students can apply MAP funds only to tuition. 
  • Students are responsible for paying their tuition bills whether state funding materializes or not. Many, like Robert, cover tuition by taking on additional debt.
  • About 280 students at Greenville College are currently awaiting $1.1M in promised financial aid from the state.
  • Last year, state legislators failed to deliver $1.3M of promised funds in a timely manner. The funds eventually arrived, but not before a cash-flow crisis ensued for many students.

When you give to GC's Fund for Educational Excellence, you help to fund needs-based scholarships. You can help mind the gap that the Sate of Illinois has not filled. Click here and give today.

This story was published on April 04, 2017

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