State lawmakers recently provided some relief to students eligible for Monetary Award Program, or MAP, grants, but other students are still uncertain about their college-funding plans.
Stopgap funding recently signed into law covered funding for all 2015-2016 MAP claims, which Lynne Baker, managing director of communications for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, says is a huge relief for many students.
But no funding is in place for the school year that starts this fall.
Baker explains MAP grants help students facing financial obstacles who are doing their best to get to college.
"We have students who are really trying to make it, and MAP is one of the programs that really can help them get over the hump, so that they can actually enroll and get through their program," she explains.
A survey prior to the latest stopgap funding found more than 18,000 students could delay their degrees or not finish college if MAP grants aren't approved for the fall.
Baker notes several lawmakers have expressed interest in providing the support for next school year, but adds that wouldn't come until mid-November, after the General Assembly is back in session.
Baker points out tuition assistance helps keep students from leaving the state, which in turn helps create a solid workforce for the future.
"If we want to continue to make Illinois a strong economic state that attracts businesses and keeps businesses, we need a workforce that can do that, and higher education is the way to get that workforce," she stresses.
Baker adds about 57 percent of MAP recipients in Illinois are first-generation college students, 62 percent are women and 56 percent African American.
MAP recipients also graduate at nearly the same rate as non-MAP recipients at the same colleges.