As many Illinois colleges continue to struggle with their finances during the state's budget impasse, college students are still being encouraged to fill out their financial aid forms.
The budget stalemate has delayed funding for the Illinois Monetary Award Program, referred to as MAP grants, but that shouldn't stop students from applying.
Lynne Baker, managing director of communications for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), says the money is likely to come through if lawmakers reach an agreement.
"The governor and legislators from both parties have expressed interest in funding the program," she points out. "So, we are very hopeful that there will be an appropriation, both for this past year and for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year."
With February being Financial Aid Awareness Month, Baker is urging students and families to get their aid applications filed as soon as possible.
Last year's cut-off date was Feb. 22, and it's expected to be around the same time this year.
The state's MAP grants are awarded on a first come, first served basis. To see if they qualify, students have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.
But there is a time crunch, because once the limited funding cap is reached, students who file late run the risk of being put on a waiting list.
"The suspense date has been earlier and earlier every year," Baker says. "Because we have so many more students who are eligible, who are filing their FAFSAs and they're filing them quickly, so the money runs out faster."
The Illinois Student Assistance Commission is hosting at least a dozen financial aid workshops across the state through the end of the month.