ISAC discusses outlook of financial aid in Illinois

By Lisa Ferro

The impact of the recession has hit the availability of student financial assistance so hard that it might take a couple years to recover, according to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

ISAC met at NIU Monday and discussed the outlook of student financial assistance in Illinois.

Before the commission began their meeting, NIU President John La Tourette welcomed the members to NIU and told them about two-thirds of NIU students are on some type of financial aid.

La Tourette said since 1980, 42,000 NIU students have received assistance from the Monetary Award Program amounting to $43 million. He also said 73,000 students received student loans amounting to $160 million.

Executive Director Larry Matejka announced the status of the MAP in his report to the ISAC members.

“The announced application volume (for MAP) continues to run at almost 9 percent above last year’s totals, while the number of eligible applicants has increased by almost 8 percent,” the report stated.

The average award for announced eligible applicants is less than $1,900, a decrease of almost 5 percent compared to last year’s average announced award, it stated.

ISAC was forced to cut MAP awards by 12 percent Jan. 31 as a result of Gov. Jim Edgar’s midyear recision. NIU students lost about $350,000 in the deal. The average student was forced to come up with $120.

The commission also discussed the decrease in their availability of funds and the increase in tuition costs at some universities next year.

The thought of tuition increases raised concerns by some of the ISAC members who said in order to provide assistance, they would need more funding from the state legislature.

“It is not this commission’s job to say (to the state legislature) we are more worthy … fund us fully and worry about the folks who need mental health care or regular health care after you fund us,” said ISAC Chairman J. Robert Barr.

The commission should tell Springfield the balancing of needs that has to be done in order to provide for everyone, Barr added.

An economic update also was given to the ISAC members as available information. “Even with additional MAP appropriations to cover tuition and fee increases, the cost of meeting increased volume and retention rates may result in a reduction in the level of MAP-eligible students,” the update stated.