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McGuire warns of dire effects of drop in MAP applications

031016CM0111CLJOLIET — Thursday’s disclosure that the number of Illinois students applying for Monetary Award Program grants to help pay for college is down 13 percent is nothing but bad news for Illinois, according to State Senator Pat McGuire (D-Joliet).

“College graduates earn more, pay more in taxes, are healthier, and are more active in civic affairs,” said McGuire, chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee. “Yet Illinois is discouraging its own high school graduates from continuing their education by failing to fund the need-based financial aid program that has helped millions of Illinois residents get ahead for almost 50 years.”

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission, which administers MAP, says the 13 percent is a decline from the 320,000 students who applied last year. Approximately 130,000 of those applicants were promised MAP grants. However, the governor last summer vetoed the $397 million in MAP funds authorized by the General Assembly. Most public and private colleges and universities consequently fronted MAP funds to students.

A late April bipartisan measure — Senate Bill 2059 — sent 43 percent of the promised MAP funds to the students' schools, and a month later the General Assembly sent the governor House Bill 4167, authorizing the rest of the $397 million promised. However, the governor has yet to sign HB 4167, and the number of schools able to continue fronting MAP funds to students is declining.

“Students who qualify for MAP qualify because they have low incomes, good grades and ambition,” McGuire said. “How stupid of us to signal to them by funding MAP less than halfway last year and maybe not at all this year that they shouldn't even bother with college.”

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