Delayed funding corrected by NIU

By Kim Harris

A problem caused by Congressional action concerning state funding was resolved by NIU’s computing and business staffs in time for fall semester.

As a result, many students whose class schedules might have been cancelled were able to begin classes this fall with little difficulty.

According to NIU Financial Aid Director Jerry Augsburger, members of Congress agreed to accommodate the middle class by broadening grant eligibility to more students.

Therefore, Congress affected state programs, but state funding was not increased. Students then received awards, but in smaller amounts. This required a different formula to be used in computing student eligibility.

“Everything that happened was a ripple effect from the federal changes,” Augsburger said.

NIU usually has an estimate by late summer of the amount received by each student who has won a grant from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission’s Monetary Award Program (ISAC-MAP).

Because of legislative delay in the approval of Illinois’ final budget, NIU and other universities usually use MAP estimates to compute student tuition bills for the fall term. Adjustments are made later when the final grant figures are in.

“Due to a number of factors, the notifications are later than usual,” ISAC spokesperson Bob Clement said. “Changes in the federal financial aid system, a delay in the decision on the federal Pell Grant amount and changes in the federal Department of Education’s reporting of school codes all played a role.”

“NIU usually has a total of about 4,000 MAP winners, with total funding at about $6 million,” Augsburger said.

Because this year’s MAP estimates were not available, bills had to go out indicating the full tuition bill was due. Students were required to pay the computerized bill by the deadline, or their schedule of classes automatically would be cancelled.

“We didn’t want to say that we wouldn’t cancel any classes. That would have held up the academic people in determining vacant seats in courses,” said NIU controller Bob Albanese.

“So we got a list of the MAP winners from our financial aid office,” Albanese said. “We estimated the amount that each student might get, and are now putting in an ‘administrative deferment,’ making it appear that the payment was received.”

Albanese said one negative result of the solution has been a large number of phone calls to the NIU Bursar’s office from individuals who do not understand the administrative deferment.

“That’s much more easily handled than thousands of cancelled schedules would have been,” he said.

NIU President John La Tourette stated in a press release, “It was extremely unfortunate that this financial aid situation has arisen, especially since it affects not only the financial status of students, but also puts additional stress on many of them.”

La Tourette noted the situation would not be fully corrected until the final awards are announced in mid-September.

MAP is the second largest need-based program in the nation, with almost $202 million awarded during the 1992-93 school year to about 110,000 students.