Students still urged to complete FAFSA forms
Just like the early onset of summer-like weather and temperatures, the suspension of 2012-13 MAP Grant processing has arrived sooner than anyone expected.
Administrators in NIU’s Student Financial Aid Office alerted all undergraduates via email Wednesday, March 14, that the prospect of a suspension was imminent.
The email urged students who had not filed the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to do so quickly.
But to their dismay, only 48 hours passed before they learned that their warning came too late.
The Illinois Student Assistance Commission notified colleges and universities at the close of business Friday, March 16, that it had reached the limits of its appropriation from the Illinois General Assembly.
Unfortunately – and ironically – the suspension date was March 14.
“It’s so discouraging. This is a program for our neediest students,” said Jane Jordan, associate director of Student Financial Aid at NIU. “This will create a barrier for some students.”
More than 6,100 NIU students received grants through the Monetary Award Program in the fall of 2011. Limited state funding and a high application volume reduced the 2011-2012 maximum award by 5 percent from $4,968 to $4,720.
As each FAFSA is loaded into ISAC’s computer, the internal calculator begins to tabulate award dollars for each eligible recipient. When that grand sum equals the state appropriation, Jordan said, “they say, ‘Stop.’ ”
Years ago, she said, students could file FAFSA forms and apply for MAP Grants well into August. Financial aid officers “were shocked” when the deadline first moved into July.
The nation’s weak economy is certainly a contributing factor, Jordan said.
“More and more students are applying,” she said, “and more and more students are eligible now who previously were not.”
Meanwhile, there is a possibility that MAP money might free up after all the payments are made: Some people who apply for and receive MAP grants decide later against college. If funds are left over, ISAC typically will extend the MAP suspension date.
“The Student Financial Aid office continues to host weekly FAFSA Fridays, which are workshops to assist students with the online application,” Jordan said. “Students also are always welcome to stop by the office or contact us through online chat, phone or email.”