Northwestern covers $2.4 million of tuition grants owed by state

Rishika Dugyala, Assistant City Editor

Northwestern is covering about $2.4 million in grants for low- and middle-income students on campus, funds Illinois has not provided since January due to the ongoing state budget deadlock.

The University is currently making up for the lapse in funding for about 500 students. But University spokesman Al Cubbage said administrators haven’t decided whether or not to cover the lapse next year if the budget crisis persists.

“We don’t really know what next year is going to bring,” Cubbage said. “That’s a matter of concern.”

The Monetary Award Program offers tuition grants for low- and middle-income Illinois students that attend public or private two- and four-year colleges, universities, hospital schools and other degree-granting institutions within the state.

Weinberg junior Cheron Mims said she is relieved she doesn’t have to worry about replacing the MAP funds on her own for the rest of this academic year.

“In terms of just where my family is financially currently, I definitely would not be here next year if NU didn’t cover the costs,” Mims said. “I’ve already taken out loans, so at this point I’ve already exhausted that amount.”

In January, the Illinois House and Senate passed a bill that would award about $712 million for MAP grants and community college programs. Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the bill, claiming there wasn’t enough state money to pay for it.

The University agreed to essentially “forgive” the tuition that would have been covered by its students’ MAP grants for Winter and Spring Quarters by stretching its own budget, Cubbage said. The MAP students will receive funds in the form of additional scholarship money from NU, and no other students’ financial aid will be affected due to the University’s rebudgeting, he said.

“In the middle of the year, the last thing an undergraduate student needs is to all of a sudden be hit with another $2,000 bill or $4,000 bill, or whatever the amount may be,” Cubbage said. “So the University kind of just stepped up and said, ‘Okay, we’ll take care of it in order to ease the concern on the part of our students.’”

However, Cubbage said $2.4 million is a lot of money, even for a financially well-endowed university such as NU. He said administrators hope the budget impasse is resolved before the next academic year. If it isn’t, he said, the University hasn’t decided whether or not to cover the lapsed grants again.

Administrators hope the state budget is resolved for the fiscal year 2016 and the MAP grant is funded at levels similar to last year, so the University can be reimbursed for the grants that it covered for its MAP students, said Dave Davis, director for state and local government relations at NU.

Cubbage said NU is one of the lucky ones: Many smaller colleges within Illinois and state universities are being hit much harder by the budget crisis, he said. Chicago State University is operating with only about two-thirds of its budget, and CSU administrators announced it may lay off hundreds of employees.

“I spend a lot of time speaking to our legislative leaders in Springfield,” Davis said. “You’d be surprised at how many of them had no idea that we have MAP recipients here at Northwestern. And that number is going to increase because the University is doing outreach to try to get more very talented, low income freshmen.”

Mims said to pay for her last year of school, she looked for outside scholarships and applied to become a Resident Assistant, a job that ensures free room and board as well as a stipend.

She said she also has visited Springfield to tell state lawmakers how much MAP affects her life, and recently accompanied Davis to a pro-MAP rally in downtown Chicago last quarter.

“It was very exhilarating to see a lot of students being proactive and being very passionate about things that really matter to them and other students, even if they weren’t MAP recipients,” Mims said. “It was one of the first times I felt … like I was able to represent an identity within Northwestern.”

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