The budget uncertainty in Illinois has some students concerned about how they will cover the cost of college this fall. Late in the 2015-16 school year, the Illinois General Assembly and the Governor were able to agree on funding that would pay 2015-16 Monetary Award Program (MAP) awards. (MAP is the largest need-based Illinois grant program for college students). You might have received an estimated MAP award for the upcoming school year, but those awards are subject to funding from the General Assembly, and as of now there has not yet been any funding for MAP or for ISAC’s other grant, scholarship and loan repayment programs for the 2016-17 school year.
The good news is that some Illinois colleges and universities have already said they will be crediting student accounts for MAP this fall, as they await payment from the State. Moreover, State elected officials have expressed their support for funding MAP for the 2016-17 academic year. When the General Assembly returns after November 15th, they will hopefully get to work on a full budget that includes funding for MAP and other grant, scholarship and loan repayment programs.
So what do you do to try to figure out how much money you will need for college this fall? Here are a few steps you can take to gather the information you need to make informed budget decisions this fall:
- Start with your college’s financial aid office. If you are a MAP recipient or are expecting some other form of gift assistance from the State of Illinois, check with your college’s financial aid office to see how they are handling MAP and other gift assistance programs during the budget delay. If they are not able to credit your account for your expected award, they may be able to provide you with information and/or resources to find the additional funding you might need.
- Based on what you find out, develop a budget for the school year. Creating a budget can give you a more realistic look at your expenses so you can make informed decisions about everything from part-time work to living arrangements. Check out SALT™ Money for great online tools that will help you with budgeting, managing debt, and more.
- If you are considering student loans, get the facts. If you think you will need a student loan, make sure you understand what kind of loans you are eligible for—federal loans usually have lower interest rates than private loans–and never borrow more than you need to pay for your education.
- Questions about student loans? In addition to your school’s financial aid office, the ISACorps can also provide more general information about student loans and financial aid. And if you sign up for ISAC’s free text messaging service, ISAC College Q&A, you can text financial aid/college-going questions directly to one of ISAC’s experts.
- Keep an eye out for scholarships. Be sure to check your college about any institutional scholarships for which you might be eligible. And check out College Greenlight™, a comprehensive scholarship and college search portal where you can instantly access information on billions in local and national scholarships.
- More questions about the budget delay and ISAC programs? We’ve posted an FAQ on the ISAC website with general questions about the delay – check there to see if we have the answer you are looking for.
Knowledge is power—get the info you need now, to make college possible this fall.