CHAMPAIGN Ill. – Thousands of Illinois college students who were hoping for financial aid from the state may be out of luck: The agency that distributes the payments says an increase in demand has forced it to turn down almost 27,000 students, and that figure could grow to 200,000 by fall.
The Illinois Student Assistance Commission says it expects to have about $400 million to spend on its Monetary Award Program grants during the next school year. But, as of April 19, that money was spoken for, and the agency started turning students down, spokesman Paul Palian said.
“In normal times, $400 million is a pretty substantial amount of money,” Palian said. “But, because of the way the economy is, we’ve just seen a surge in demand the last couple of years.”
MAP is a state-funded, need-based program that provides as much as $4,968 a year in grants for college for eligible students. For the school year that just ended, ISAC provided more than 183,000 grants worth $430 million.
In most years tens of thousands of students are turned away because demand exceeds the money available; this academic year 120,000 eligible students were turned down, and almost 60,000 the year before, according to ISAC. But the state is on pace this year to far exceed those numbers.
This year, increasing numbers of students are finding that they need more help than in the past to pay for college because of the economy and related increases in tuition, while other people either choose to head to college or stay in college longer because they can’t find a job, Palian said.
Among four-year schools, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale has the largest number of returning and prospective students who’ve been turned down at 667, according to ISAC. That was followed by Northern Illinois University’s 628 and the University of Illinois-Chicago’s 520.
Some schools like the University of Illinois’ flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign, where 207 eligible students have been denied MAP funding, have money to help make up the difference. The U of I says it plans to spend more than $40 million on supplemental financial aid next year.
At SIU, $2 million is available, far less than the demand in even a better year, spokesman Rod Sievers said.
What can students denied MAP grants who can’t get help from the school do?
“The next step for them is probably loans,” Sievers said.
Of the 27,000 students turned down as of May 20, most 17,575 are trying to find money to attend public community college, according to the commission.