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More Money, More MAP Grants

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WOSU Public Media

Low-income college students in Illinois got some good news today. The state's Monetary Award Program — which provides MAP grants to help pay for tuition — will be able to give more grants with more money, thanks to the largest appropriation in the fund’s history.

Lynne Baker, with the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, says the agency approved a new formula that will boost grants by an average of $220 and cover at least 6,700 more students.

For the past few years, while the state suffered through a budget impasse, her job has entailed delivering a steady stream of bad news to students, community colleges and universities schools that depend on MAP funds. But the new state budget includes $451.3 million for MAP.

"It won't go all the way to offering meaningful awards to all eligible applicants, but it is certainly a great step in the right direction," she says.

Determining how to divvy up the money is a big decision. It’s kind of like cutting a pizza: Should you make big slices, so you fully feed a few? Or should you make smaller slices, so nobody starves? 

"So there's always a balancing act there, because you want an award to be large enough so that it's meaningful enough for a student to be able to go to school, but you also want to serve as many students as possible," Baker says 

To figure out exactly how to apportion the pie, ISAC gets advice from the Illinois Association of Financial Aid Administrators. The final formula was approved Monday. The average grant for a community college student will be $1,048 (an increase of $23); the average award for a student attending a public four-year university will be $4,394 (an increase of $375); and the average award for a student attending a private non-profit university will be $4,527 (an increase of $393). The maximum award will increase from $4,968 to $5,340.

After a long career in newspapers (Dallas Observer, The Dallas Morning News, Anchorage Daily News, Illinois Times), Dusty returned to school to get a master's degree in multimedia journalism. She began work as Education Desk reporter at NPR Illinois in September 2014.
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