Officials expect grant funding

By Clarissa Hinshaw

DeKALB — NIU leaders are looking at ways to help students if state lawmakers don’t fund Monetary Award Program Grants, although NIU leaders are confident funding will be passed.

For the second year in a row, Illinois is starting a new year without a budget. This pattern has continued and is the longest budget stalemate the U.S. has ever had, according to a March 30 CNBC article. If state lawmakers do not come up with a budget, they will likely have to cut funding for several programs, potentially including MAP grants, according to the article.

MAP grants are awarded to students in need of financial assistance by FAFSA. The grants are funded by the state and awarded by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

Alan Phillips, vice president for Administration and Finance, is uncertain about what will happen if lawmakers are unable to fund the MAP Grants. He said students were credited for spring MAP grants, but if lawmakers do not come through, students will have to pay back the grants.

“In the event we do not receive MAP funding, the students will be required to pay the university back for the funding provided, but we will work with students and take advantage of whatever financial aid and other resources we have to mitigate those costs to students,” Phillips said. “We are, however, fully expecting that the state will fund the program by the end of the year. If we were more concerned, we would not be crediting students’ accounts.”

NIU officials are looking at ways to help students pay back their grants in the case that they aren’t funded, such as federal aid, scholarships and payment plans, Phillips said. However, he said he is working hard with legislators to make sure the grants are funded.

Faculty Senate President Greg Long is confident that the state will find a way to fund the grants but is unsure of what will happen if they do not come through with a budget.

“I think if there is ultimately no funding, it affects the students’ ability to attend universities,” Long said. “I look at all this particularly as a social justice and civil rights issue because college education shouldn’t just be limited to students who come from privileged backgrounds.”

Last spring, MAP grants were credited by NIU until June 30 when lawmakers approved a budget for Fiscal Year 2016 after a 12-month impasse.

State lawmakers are facing a similar problem in FY17. Although a six-month budget was approved in June, NIU had to apply this to expenses from FY16, according to a Jan. 18 email from President Doug Baker.

“I, again, want to provide reassurance to our students that we will continue to credit their MAP grants as we anticipate the state will fund that obligation this spring as it did last year,” Baker said in the email.

Moriah Tyler, senior political science major and MAP grant recipient, is applying to law school at places other than NIU. Although Tyler is graduating this year, she is worried about her peers in the case that grant funding isn’t approved.

“[Access to MAP grants] definitely affects [students’] decision to go to school,” Tyler said. “It’s extremely expensive to go to school. They’ll either apply to places where they can get more financial help, or they’re going to have to work twice as hard to get an education.”

Clarissa Hinshaw is a staff writer. She can be reached at