Senate Bill 1971, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Welch, D-Peru, and
House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, D-Chicago, makes two notable
changes to the state-funded Monetary Award Program. First, the
grants will not only be available for fall and spring terms; the new
legislation makes them available for summer terms as well. This will
allow students eligible for the state's largest financial aid
program greater flexibility to receive tuition grants to complete
their degrees. Secondly, students will be able to use the grants
according to their own schedule, based on a total number of credit
hours, rather than tracking usage by school terms.
"We should help students attend college
on their own schedule. By signing this law, students will be able to
use MAP grants all year long, based on their credit hours. If a
working mom, trying to further her education, can only take one
class instead of three or four, now she will know she has our
support and assurance that financial aid will be there when she
needs it," Gov. Blagojevich said.
"Through this legislation, we will be
able to help more students, including those who want to update their
skills in this changing economy," said Illinois House Speaker
Michael J. Madigan.
About 141,000 students received the
grants last year, and an estimated 20,000 of those students will be
eligible to benefit from the grants offered during summer terms.
Students will continue to be limited to an annual maximum award,
currently funded around $4,400 per student, depending on the cost of
the school they attend.
Furthermore, students can receive grant
assistance in the summer only if they did not fully exhaust their
annual eligibility during the fall and spring terms. The first
summer that the grants may be available will be 2006.
"I am very pleased to have sponsored
legislation changing the way MAP grants are awarded," said Sen.
Welch. "This important change will allow a college student to change
their major and still finance their education without being
penalized where financial aid is concerned, at no additional expense
to the state."
The new law also allows students
eligible for the need-based program, targeted at low-income
families, to receive aid while taking up to 135 credit hours, rather
than the equivalent of four years of full-time enrollment. Paying
the grants per credit hour is not only a more efficient and
accountable manner of awarding grants to financially needy students,
but it also conserves grant eligibility for individual students to
use as they complete their degrees.
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second column in this article]
"When the MAP grant was created over
four decades ago, almost all students followed the traditional
academic year, enrolling during the fall and spring semesters. And
most of those students could attend full-time and complete their
degrees within four years. That's really not the case in today's
environment," said Larry Matejka, executive director of the Illinois
Student Assistance Commission, the state's centralized agency
responsible for administering student aid programs, including the
Monetary Award Program. "Nearly half of the students eligible for
MAP are adults, who tend to take classes year-round so they can
graduate sooner and use their education to improve their
employability. And since many students work while attending school,
they often find it difficult to fit in a full schedule of classes,
on top of work and family commitments. MAP should be as flexible as
possible so it accommodates an increasingly diverse student
population, while still maintaining fiscal responsibility."
More information on the Monetary Award
Program and other financial assistance programs can be found at
www.collegezone.com or by calling the Illinois Student
Assistance Commission toll-free at (800) 899-ISAC .
Senate Bill 1971 is effective
Student Assistance Commission is the state's centralized provider of
financial assistance aimed at helping students and families access
postsecondary education or training. Each year, the commission
awards an estimated $400 million in scholarship and grant aid to
nearly 185,000 qualified students and also provides an additional $1
billion to borrowers through its student loan programs. The agency
offers credit-based alternative loans, a 529 prepaid tuition program
known as College Illinois, and a broad array of outreach and
informational services to ensure that families have access to the
information they need to pay for a college education.
from the governor's office]