State grants now usable for summer

Amy Hamblin

Students from Illinois who attend Northwestern now can apply oneof their state grants to the summer term, which officials say willgive students greater freedom to plan their academic school yearschedule.

In early September Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a law allowingstudents to use financial aid from the statewide Monetary AwardProgram during any quarter or semester.

The program only provides grants to Illinois residents whodemonstrate financial need in the information they provide on theFree Application for Federal Student Aid. The grants can be usedfor tuition and other mandatory fees.

Previously MAP grants recipients only could apply the grantsover two semesters or three quarters. The new legislation does notraise the ceiling on the maximum annual amount a student canreceive, currently capped at $4,968.

“There is a need for some kind of subsidization (of tuition)over the summer,” said Maureen Budetti, director of student aidpolicy for the National Association of Independent Colleges andUniversities. “If you are advancing academically more quickly, youdon’t necessarily want to have to wait through the summer.”

The change means students can graduate earlier if they choose tostudy year-round. In addition, students who wish to take fewercourses during the school year can graduate on schedule byenrolling in required classes during the summer. Either way,Budetti said, summer financial aid is an option students musthave.

The number of NU students receiving MAP grants this year is notyet known, but about 475 NU students were awarded the grants duringthe 2003-04 school year, said Carolyn Lindley, director offinancial aid. Lindley said she was unsure how the new state lawwill impact next year’s Summer Session students.

“The Monetary Award Program has been hit with a lack ofresources, so it’s hard to know whether this is positive or notuntil we see how it affects students during the year,” Lindleysaid. “I hope it gives them more options to attend summerschool.”

This new legislation won’t change NU’s policy on summerfinancial aid for the upcoming year, she added. NU students mayapply for summer financial aid, but it is generally awarded tostudents who can demonstrate a specific need to take courses duringSummer Session.

Prajwal Ciryam, Associated Student Government’s academic vicepresident, said he hopes NU will follow the precedent Illinois hasset for providing summer financial aid. The issue was one of thecornerstones of his ASG campaign last year.

“This (law) reflects the changing attitude that the SummerSession is an important and integral option academically,” saidCiryam, a Weinberg junior. “It shouldn’t just be a luxury for thosewho can afford it but for everyone who is interested.”

Since being elected, Ciryam has worked to change NU’s summerfinancial aid policy. His academic committee is compilinginformation on how other schools deal with summer financial aid,hoping to convince administrators to formally address theissue.

Although Ciryam said he believes the increased flexibility forusing MAP grants is a positive step, he added that some studentsfrom low-income families still won’t be able to afford SummerSession.

“What is problematic is that (the legislation) doesn’t increasethe monetary award,” Ciryam said. “In the end, it’s not a lot ofmoney.”

Reach Amy Hamblin at [email protected]