By MATT HOPF
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
College students hoping to receive grant money from the state of Illinois may be out of luck.
The Illinois Student Assistance Commission announced it is suspending the release of Monetary Award Program grants as of today. The state budgeted $436.68 million for the grant program this fiscal year, and it all has been awarded.
This means students who submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) from today on will not receive a MAP grant.
Kristen Johnson, a financial aid counselor at Quincy University, said if a student is enrolled for 15 credit hours and qualifies for a MAP grant, the maximum award would have been $4,720.
"If you filed late but would have qualified, you are out that money," she said.
This is the earliest the program has been suspended, according to ISAC. The early suspension comes as more students file their FAFSA earlier and as the state's financial struggles continue. Students were able to apply for financial aid starting Jan. 1. ISAC spokesman John Samuels said the agency is expecting a MAP Grant budget for the next fiscal year of $350 million, down from $371 million in the current fiscal year.
"As of today, we have students who are eligible for over $480 million," he said. "We had to put the suspensionSClB in place. We projected, using the assumptions we use in terms of what claim rates are going to be and the types of schools, that funds will be exhausted by the end of today."
Samuels said 10 years ago all students who were eligible for a MAP Grant received one. Now, less half of eligible students will.
Over the last few years, students have started submitting their applications earlier.
"More and more of the state public universities are putting a March 1 deadline on FAFSAs for their financial aid packaging purposes," Samuels said.
Samuels said there is a chance that some more students could be accepted in the program if eligible students decide not to go to college.
"The other thing is if the General Assembly appropriates more than $350 million, we can extend processing, or if they appropriate less than $350 million, then we'd have to look at the reduction factor again," he said.
Students should continue filling out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid to qualify for other programs such as Pell Grants and Stafford Loans.
Johnson said more students have filed earlier in recent years as tuition rates have increased.
"These grants are very beneficial for students if you qualify for them," she said. "You don't want to miss out on this money."
Johnson also encouraged students to look at work study programs and to search for scholarship opportunities.
Students can fill out their financial aid form at fafsa.gov.
"We want to stress that .gov, because it is a free application," Johnson said. "We don't want students paying for something that should be free."