Changes to the Map Grant

With that last minute FAFSA crunch I found it appropriate to let you know that Illinois has proposed more guidelines for MAP grants, and they’re not so great for the poor college graduate.

The MAP Grant, which is awarded by the Illinois Student Aid Commission, is a need-based, state-funded grant that can vary from $300 to $4720. Grants can be limited – based on the number of applicants, the applicants that meet the FAFSA application deadline and state funding. Currently, the state requires applicants and parents to live in Illinois and the student must have at least 15 credit hours per semester.

The MAP is only available to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor’s degree or professional degree. The MAP is awarded based on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is determined in your FAFSA application. The formula takes into consideration your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, benefits like unemployment or social security, family size, and how many family members will be in college during the year. After they throw all this information in, your EFC is calculated and if you’re above 9000, you’re not eligible. Then there’s MAP Eligibility Units, which is basically how many credits you have. Sophomores with 75 units are not eligible; students with 135 units are not eligible.

Many students may have noticed a series of e-mails pressuring them to finish their FAFSA applications by the deadline. FAFSA applications were due Feb. 22, which happens to be the earliest due date in MAP history, because of state budget difficulties, and also because they received a ton of early applicants. If your FAFSA wasn’t in by the Feb. 22 you’re out of luck, and probably out a pretty penny.

There are some possible changes that have serious effects on current students. If you leave Illinois within 5 years after graduation you might have to pay back some of your loan. You may also have to graduate within 4 years, or you might have to pay back part of your loan. These are all things in a bill that is being passed around Illinois legislature.

I can understand needing to graduate within 4 years, but having to stay in state for 5 years? What if students are doing more important things like finding a job or going to grad school outside of Illinois? No assistance beyond a bachelor’s degree doesn’t make much sense because it’s harder to go farther with just a bachelor’s degree. What if a student wants to explore more than Illinois after graduation? What if a student wants to go to school out of state? Does that count, Illinois? I guess we’ll have to see whether or not this bill passes, but if it does, there are going to be problems.