Members of the Lake Land College Student Government Association are heading to Springfield on April 2 for Student Advocacy Day in support of expanding financial aid opportunities to community college students.
The topic at hand is the Monetary Award Program Grant (MAP Grant), a financial aid option available to Illinois residents who attend approved Illinois colleges and demonstrate financial need, based on the information provided on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Sixty-two percent of Lake Land College students receive financial aid.
According to Student Trustee Kolten Postin, who also serves as the chair for the Illinois Community College Board Student Advisory Committee (ICCB SAC) Legislative Subcommittee, the majority of students in the state of Illinois who need financial assistance, have the minority of the funding allocated to them.
“Sixty-five percent of students in college in the state of Illinois attend community college,” said Postin. “But, only 13 percent of the MAP Grant funding is allocated for community college students. This disproportionate percentage is affecting how and when students can access education and that has an economic impact on our communities and state.”
According to Postin, who is working with other student governments across the state, the ICCB SAC is specifically requesting that $65 million in MAP Grant funding be reserved and allocated for community college students.
“We are not asking for an increase in overall funding, but we are asking that of the funding already available, the state increase community college allocation by two percent, which is a reasonable and modest request,” said Postin. “This minor request, if granted, will affect 17,000 community college students, giving them the assistance they need to complete their education.”
Furthermore, because of an earlier deadline set by the legislative body each year, fewer Lake Land College students receive the MAP Grant, which disallows many students from reaching their academic goals.
“At Lake Land, we often have students who rely on financial aid resources to make college a reality,” said Postin. “The initial cut-off date to apply for MAP Grant funding in 2012-2013 was March 1, but the vast majority of Lake Land students make the decision to attend college and apply for financial aid well after this date. In fact this year, for every needy student who got a MAP award in 2013-14, there were two students who would have qualified, but missed the deadline.”
According to Postin, the disconnect between the MAP Grant deadline and students’ decisions about college has very real affects. For example, during the 2003-2004 school year, the number of students receiving a MAP Grant at Lake Land College was 1,441. But during the 2013-2014 school year, the number of students who received MAP Grant funding was just 705, a decrease of 51 percent over the decade.
In terms of student financial aid, during the 2003-2004 school year, Lake Land College students received $1.2 million in MAP Grant funding. Yet, during this school year, the total is $724,000, a decrease of 44 percent.
Furthermore, the maximum MAP Grant award at Lake Land has not increased in a decade. The maximum award in 2013-2014 was $1,807, which is 5 percent less than full tuition and fees were in 2003-2004. Tuition and fees for 30 semester hours at Lake Land is $3,234. The increase in this gap means that students must rely on other forms of financial aid such as the Federal Pell Grant in order to cover the cost difference. This often leaves students with less money to pay for other expenses such as transportation and supplies.
“Reallocating the funding to offer more community college students financial support is an economic investment the state must make,” said Postin. “We feel very prepared to talk to our legislators and hope to represent Lake Land and all community colleges across the state well.”