Editorial: NIU should set a plan of options for students with MAP grants

NIU should create a more thorough back-up plan for Monetary Award Program grant recipients in case MAP state appropriations are not given out.

MAP grants, based solely on financial need, are given to Illinois residents who attend approved Illinois colleges, according to the Federal Student Aid application.

Due to a lack of agreement on a finalized state budget for Fiscal Year 2016, funds such as MAP cannot be appropriated. NIU, however, credited student accounts for their MAP grants of about 5,700 students amounting to $20 million dollars for the fall 2015 and spring 2016 semesters.

It is recognized that this was done with the assumption that a budget fully funding MAP would be passed, but with the vetoing and failure to override the veto of Senate Bill 2043, which would have only funded MAP and community colleges not four-year universities, and the lack of movement on other legislation, the university must be responsible and set up a back up plan for students.

At a Feb. 16 Town Hall meeting, Alan Phillips, vice president of Administration and Finance, said if there is no state allocation for NIU MAP students, recipients will have to pay back the credits they accepted because NIU is not in a position to cover those funds. Phillips also said the university would work with students to find other forms of financial aid. It has been more than a month since and no concrete plan has been set in motion or made known to students. With open enrollment for summer and fall 2016 classes beginning Friday, and students graduating in May, students may need to get their affairs in order.

The Editorial Board recommends that by the end of April a plan be set and viable options be presented to students, especially those graduating. This plan can include lists of scholarship, grant and loan options and/or a repayment plan. Although this plan may not be used until a decision is made by the state, it is sensible to make students aware of their options.

The Editorial Board wants to reiterate that it understands NIU is not a financial institution and there is no precedent to follow but recommends a helpful strategy is communicated with students on how and when MAP grant credits can be repaid.