Students rally in Springfield to support MAP grant funding

Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley) speaks with a group of NIU students during Wednesday’s March on Springfield. The students asked Pritchard questions about why the state has delayed paying NIU the money it owes the university.

By Kelly Bauer

College students need grant money, and they’re willing to fight for it.

NIU students marched on Illinois’ capitol Wednesday, intent on gaining support for increased – or, at least, a stabilization – of monetary award program (MAP) grant funding. Delonte LeFlore, director of Student Life for the Student Association, said he went to the capitol to lobby for higher education as a whole.

LeFlore said the state of Illinois owes NIU about $30 million. NIU “fronts” the money the state owes the university, which leads to the university having to cut back expenses in other areas, like scholarships and grants, LeFlore said.

Students who don’t receive funding might have to drop out of NIU and attend a community college, LeFlore said, where the highest degree attainable is an associate’s degree. LeFlore said this degree was not enough to ensure success. Because many of those who didn’t drop out would have to get money from student or private loans, LeFlore said a lack of grant funding also pushes students toward debt.

“If we don’t get this money, I’ll have to go to a community college,” said freshman communications major Xavier Brown, who attended the march. “How am I going to have a career? How am I going to eat? How am I going to have kids and take care of them?”

Marchers expressed their frustration to Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley), who has supported MAP grant funding in the past.

James Alford, sophomore political science major, said he would have to return home if he didn’t receive a MAP grant each semester.

“I’m from Chicago. I lost my cousin to gang violence and my brother to a correctional facility,” Alford said. “If I wasn’t here, that could be the same thing for me.”

Pritchard said NIU will receive money owed to it by the state by Dec. 31.

“They haven’t been shorted – the payments have been delayed,” Pritchard said. “It will be paid eventually.”

Four marchers also spoke with State Senator Christine Johnson of the 35th District and expressed their concerns in regards to the state’s delayed payment and MAP Grant funding.

“It’s putting a lot of hurt on the school when we’re still owed $36 million from the state,” said SA Senate Speaker Austin Quick.

A law will be enacted in 2012 that removes MAP grant funding from for-profit colleges, Johnson said.

“I think we’ll be lucky if [grant funding] stays the same,” Johnson said.

LeFlore called upon students to contact their legislators and universities across the U.S. to work together to help students pay for higher education.

“I think some students don’t have it in their head that this will affect them,” LeFlore said. “I don’t think a one-time trip will make a difference. These students who came here, they are our voices. We need to contact our government leaders.”