Recipients of the Monetary Award Program (MAP) tuition grants from over 130 colleges and universities in Illinois might be the next victims of the state budget deadlock. The program, funded through Senate Bill 2043, is likely to be stalled since Governor Bruce Rauner said he would veto the bill.
As Springfield lawmakers handed the bill to Gov. Rauner on Tuesday, college students in Chicago and their supporters, including former Gov. Pat Quinn, rallied at the Thompson Center in Chicago, pressing Rauner to sign the bill.
“The people in Illinois should not allow this great program which has existed for a half century to be eliminated by the Governor,” said Quinn. “I think the Governor will be very wrong-headed to do that.”
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Students chanted “Hey Rauner, hear us call, MAP matters to us all,” alongside with Quinn. They demanded that Rauner keep the need-based program that provides financial aid to about 25,000 students statewide this past academic year, according to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.
“I want to graduate,” said William Schunemn from Dominican University. “I’m one year away from graduating and I need the MAP grant to finish my education.”
The prospect of losing MAP hits his school hard. “If students don’t receive the funding, I would lose half of my school,” said Schunemn.
Student representatives from 15 universities in and around Chicago expressed the same pain and asked Gov. Rauner to invest in their future.
“I need him to sign SB 2043. That’s how he would support my dream,” said Tamica Payne, a Saint Xavier University junior. She wants to become a teacher, and the absence of the MAP grant would make it harder for her to pay for her education.
University staff from Saint Xavier said the MPA grant is critical to their students. Sixty-five percent of the students at the university on the city’s southwest side are first-generation in their family to attend college, said Joan Knox, associate vice president for university and community relations.
“We have a very large number of underprivileged students,” said Knox. “If Saint Xavier can’t get the MAP funding, and these students didn’t get educated at Saint Xavier, they are likely not to get educated.”
Quinn stressed that education is a priority that the governor should not compromise “for today and for tomorrow” despite a budget deadlock.
“This is the best investment Illinois can make, investing in students who learn here, stay here, and make our state a better place,” said Quinn, who added that if the governor would not sign the bill, people should pressure lawmakers to override the veto.
“For these students who are in college, who have financial need, who are promised the scholarship, the promise should be kept,” said Quinn.
Funding for MAP has already been frozen for several months during the current state budget stalemate. Although a Rauner spokeswoman said he would veto the bill, the undeterred Democrats have given the governor two weeks to rethink the bill. It still remains to be seen whether the governor will change his mind.