DU faculty, staff doubt Governor’s claim of increased MAP assistance for students

By Alexandra Chavez

April 2, 2014

In the eyes of some Americans, trusting politicians with their word is like believing Vladimir Putin will give up the Ukrainian region of Crimea peacefully without a fight; it’s just plain fool’s gold.

Some faculty and staff members at Dominican have little faith in Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s January promise to double a major student aid program over the next five years.

In a recent address to the state, Quinn proposed doubling the number of the Monetary Award Program, or MAP college grants, for Illinois students.

“By doubling the number of MAP scholarships, we can make sure students in need are equipped to excel in the 21st century workplace,” Quinn said.

Some doubt this is even possible, including Director of Financial Aid Marie von Ebers.

“At the current rate, the government can’t pay everyone who is eligible,” Von Ebers said.

Because of state budgeting, the deadline to apply for the MAP grant is tighter every year, with many students having rushed to file their FAFSA by this year’s early deadline of Feb. 27.

“Years ago, the MAP deadline was until September,” Ebers said.

For more than 375,000 Illinois students, the MAP grant is an important source of college financial assistance. At Dominican, about 1,000 students receive MAP grants. The university received a total of $4,758,335 this school year for the MAP grant, while the average MAP grant for a 15 credit hour student for a full year is $4,720. For a 12 credit hour student, the average total is $3,774.

David Dolence, department chair for political science, said the shifting deadline is a way to keep some people from getting grants.

“The deadline is a scam to save money; it’s a maneuver to not pay people,” Dolence said.

Dolence said Quinn is “all talk” and has done nothing to help the MAP grant program, especially for doing things such as putting state discretionary income toward it. To Dolence, Quinn’s main priority is getting reelected and feeding people, especially students, what they want to hear.

The five-year time span for this proposal is also a reelection strategy.

“He promised the same thing four years ago,” Dolence said.

Von Ebers said she has not seen any progress since January on Quinn’s proposal.

For some students, the MAP grant is their primary source of aid.

“If I didn’t have the MAP money, I would need a third job and that means no time for homework or family, plus a bigger loan that I can’t afford to take out,” junior Marilyn Vasquez said.

MAP grant cuts also have the potential to affect students who don’t even receive the grants. According to Dolence, because Dominican University is a tuition driven school, if fewer students attend due to not receiving enough MAP grant money, the tuition for others could rise.

Dolence is leading a group of students to the annual Private College Student Lobby Day in Springfield on Wednesday, April 30, where they will advocate for continued MAP grant funding.

Junior Michael Tinson, president of Dominican’s First in the Family organization that advocates for students who are the first in their families to go to college, said that the lobby day has become an annual event several at Dominican look forward to. Tinson plans to collaborate with SGA and other student organizations to advocate for the MAP grant down in Springfield in April.