Quinn visits NIU to promote MAP grant funding increase

Gov. Pat Quinn and NIU student Michelle Romero
Gov. Pat Quinn and NIU student Michelle Romero

Gov. Pat Quinn was on the Northern Illinois University campus Thursday, promoting a plan to double funding for the state’s Monetary Award Program, which provides college tuition grants to students in need.

“If we don’t invest in these young men and women, we lose out. It’s an investment that pays off for a lifetime,” said Quinn, who was flanked by about 20 NIU students, NIU President Doug Baker and several members of the NIU Board of Trustees.

One of the students, Michelle Romero, 22, a senior from Belvidere who is studying political science, told the crowd in attendance how the program has helped to put herself and her two sisters through NIU.

“Without MAP grants,” she said, “I believe my parents would have had trouble putting me through school, let alone all three of us.”

Illinois currently allocates $373 million for MAP grants, which benefit more than 140,000 students across the state. A boost of $50 million next year would give 21,000 more students access to grant funds.

That would be good news for the 1,400 NIU students who qualified for MAP grants last year but did not receive them because funding was exhausted. (About 5,700 NIU students did receive MAP grants last year, with the average grant covering about one-third of tuition and fees.)

The increased MAP funding is built into the version of the budget Gov. Quinn is promoting.

Gov. Pat Quinn and NIU student Michelle RomeroHis spending plan is predicated upon the legislature making a temporary income tax increase permanent. Quinn’s budget, as written, also would provide flat funding for higher education across the state, versus a 12.5 percent reduction (about $11.6 million) proposed by others. That budget would also cut $50 million from the MAP program.

“If we want to have a strong economy – if we want to have a good future – we cannot be cutting higher education in our state,” Quinn said.

Baker agreed with that assessment, and endorsed the governor’s idea.

“Keeping a college education affordable is an important part of ensuring student career success,” Baker said. “We appreciate Gov. Quinn’s plan and believe that it will significantly enhance student opportunities.”

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