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MAP grants to increase this year

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[JUNE 27, 2005]  SPRINGFIELD -- Most of the college students eligible to receive grants from the state-funded Monetary Award Program will see an increase in their financial aid awards for the 2005-2006 academic year. The 2006 state budget, approved by the Illinois General Assembly and signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, gives $8 million in new state money for the financial need-based grants. That increase will help Illinois qualify for a matching grant from the federal government of $3.7 million. Combined, almost $12 million in additional funding will be available to help eligible undergraduate students cover the cost of tuition and fees at qualified Illinois colleges and universities.

At a funding level of $339 million last year, the Monetary Award Program grants, administered by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, helped about 149,000 Illinois students pursue a postsecondary education. This year, with at least $347 million for the financial aid program, the grants awarded will be larger, covering more of the tuition and fee charges, which have continued to rise dramatically over the last few years.

"Even though state leaders have protected the Monetary Award Program from funding cuts in recent years, despite the state's poor economic condition, we have reached the critical stage of ensuring that MAP grants are at sufficient level to truly help low-income students afford a college education," stated Larry E. Matejka, executive director of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

Since 2003, each MAP grant has gotten smaller, due to stagnant funding, while college costs have climbed significantly. In 2002, the maximum MAP grant covered all the average tuition at Illinois public universities, but this year's maximum MAP grant covered only 65 percent of the cost of tuition and fees, and in some cases the coverage dropped to 45 percent. MAP students, due to their limited family resources, have generally paid the remaining charges by borrowing more student loans, working more hours while attending school or reducing the number of classes in which they are enrolled, even leaving school altogether because they could not afford the costs.

"For the first time in 10 years, ISAC is actually seeing fewer applications for MAP grants," Matejka explained. "Family incomes haven't significantly improved, and we know there are as many high school graduates this year as in past years, so the drop in financial aid applications may mean that college is just not affordable for a lot of families. We must reverse this trend, and raising MAP grant awards is key to making college affordable."

The added funding for MAP grants will raise the amount awarded to each eligible student by an average of $161, from $2,863 to $3,024. Students at public universities will see the largest increase in MAP grants, with the average award moving from $3,533 to $3,964. These students will still need to cover the remaining tuition and fees, now averaging $7,100 at public universities, but this year marks the first increase in MAP grants after three years of continuous cuts.

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MAP grants are awarded by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, the state's centralized agency for administering and promoting student financial aid programs. In addition to MAP grants, the agency provides 15 other scholarship and grant programs, as well as educational loans for students and parents. All program administration and outreach activities focused on helping Illinois students and families are supported by ISAC's student loan programs.

For more information, individuals should contact the commission toll-free at (800) 899-ISAC [4722] or visit the comprehensive college planning website, College Zone counselors and materials are available in Spanish.

About ISAC

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission is the state's centralized provider of financial assistance aimed at helping students and families access postsecondary education and 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 through the nonprofit student loan secondary market offered by the Illinois Designated Account Purchase Program, through a 529 prepaid tuition program known as College Illinois, and with 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.

More information is available by calling toll-free (800) 899-ISAC [4722], visiting, or contacting the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, 500 W. Monroe, 3rd Floor, Springfield, IL 62704

[Illinois Student Assistance Commission news release]

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