SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to help more students afford to go to college, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed Senate Bill 1971 – adding new flexibility to the Monetary Award Program which provides grants to help pay tuition and mandatory fees to Illinois students based on financial need.
Senate Bill 1971, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Welch (D-Peru) and House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-Chicago), makes two notable changes to the state-funded Monetary Award Program (MAP). First, MAP grants will not only be available for Fall and Spring terms, SB 1971 makes them available for Summer terms as well. This will allow students eligible for the state’s largest financial aid program greater flexibility to receive tuition grants to complete their degrees. Secondly, students will be able to utilize MAP grants according to their own schedule, based on a total number of credit hours, rather than tracking MAP usage by terms.
“We should help students attend college on their own schedule. By signing this law, students will be able to use MAP grants all year long, based on their credit hours. If a working mom, trying to further her education, can only take one class instead of three or four, now she will know she has our support and assurance that financial aid will be there when she needs it,” Governor Blagojevich said.
"Through this legislation, we will be able to help more students, including those who want to update their skills in this changing economy,” said Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan.
About 141,000 students received MAP grants last year, and an estimated 20,000 of those students will be eligible to benefit from MAP offered during summer terms. Students will continue to be limited to an annual maximum MAP award, currently funded around $4,400 per student, depending on the cost of the school they attend.
Furthermore, students can receive Summer MAP only if they did not fully exhaust their annual MAP eligibility during the Fall and Spring terms. The first Summer that MAP grants may be available will be 2006.
"I am very pleased to have sponsored legislation changing the way MAP Grants are awarded," said Sen. Welch. "This important change will allow a college student to change their major and still finance their education without being penalized where financial aid is concerned at no additional expense to the State."
The new law also allows students eligible for the need-based program targeted at low-income families to receive aid while taking up to 135 credit hours, rather than the equivalent of four years of full-time enrollment. Paying MAP grants per credit hour is not only a more efficient and accountable manner of awarding grants to financially-needy students, but it also conserves MAP eligibility for individual students to use as they complete their degrees.
“When the MAP grant was created over four decades ago, almost all students followed the traditional academic year, enrolling during the fall and spring semesters. And most of those students could attend full-time and complete their degrees within four years. That’s really not the case in today’s environment,” said Larry Matejka, Executive Director of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), the state’s centralized agency responsible for administering student aid programs, including MAP. “Nearly half of the students eligible for MAP are adults, who tend to take classes year-round so they can graduate sooner and use their education to improve their employability. And since many students work while attending school, they often find it difficult to fit in a full schedule of classes, on top of work and family commitments. MAP should be as flexible as possible so it accommodates an increasingly diverse student population, while still maintaining fiscal responsibility.”
More information on the Monetary Award Program and other financial assistance programs can be found at collegezone.com or by calling the Illinois Student Assistance Commission toll-free at 800-899-ISAC (4722).
SB 1971 is effective immediately.
The Illinois Student Assistance Commission is the State’s centralized provider of financial assistance aimed at helping students and families access postsecondary education and/or training. Each year, the Commission awards an estimated $400 million in scholarship and grant aid to nearly 185,000 qualified students, and also provides an additional $1 billion to borrowers through its student loan programs. The agency offers credit-based alternative loans, a 529 prepaid tuition program known as College Illinois!, and a broad array of outreach and informational services to ensure that families have access to the information they need to pay for a college education. More information is available by calling toll-free 800-899-ISAC (4722) or visiting the agency’s Web site at www.collegezone.com.