Students take to Springfield for legislation reform
Published: Saturday, April 28, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
The Monetary Award Program (MAP), a $5,000 higher education grant designed to help students in financial need attend college who otherwise would not have means, is once again on the chopping for Illinois legislators.
Prompted by recent cuts to the MAP grant, 12 DePaul students, including Student Government Association (SGA) President Anthony Alfano, Senator for Community and Government Relations Abin Kuriakose, Treasurer Caroline Winsett, and EVP for Public Affairs Casey Clemmons traveled to Springfield Wednesday, April 25 for Student Lobby Day, where they addressed lawmakers and aimed to promote continued funding for the grant that 4,600 DePaul students receive annually.
Winsett, who is running for 2012-2013 SGA President alongside running mate Casey Clemmons, believes MAP funding is engrained in DePaul’s institutional mission.
“DePaul’s Vincentian tradition lends itself to be more accommodating for those who can’t afford the sticker price of college tuition,” she said.
DePaul’s student representatives lobbied with students from other private universities in Illinois by going door to door to try and speak with both House and Senate members, often times simply leaving cards expressing their concern for the MAP grant’s future, which this year ran out March 19, the earliest date ever.
“The fact that students came down to Springfield themselves says a lot. Legislators seeing that students care should make a difference,” Clemmons said.
While he and Winsett felt their effort was well received and effective, other students in attendance were less optimistic. Freshman and MAP recipient Letitia McAllister felt the lack of actual face-time with lawmakers made her lobbying efforts more of a formality than anything else.
“I didn’t get a chance to talk to any of my representatives, and they knew it was MAP Student Lobby day," McAllister said. "I was more ambitious than they were. Taking the time to talk would have meant a lot.”
Sophomore Aruba Nomani, who is also a MAP recipient, feels strongly that lawmakers need to recognize the long-term benefits of MAP.
“The only way we can keep the economy going is to have an educated nation, and MAP is part of that process,” Nomani said.
Alfano, who visited the offices of Rep. Franks and Sen. Althoff and spoke face to face with Rep. Ann Williams and Sen. Johnson, shares her opinion.
“It’s actually pretty simple. If you want the state to be prosperous, we need to make sure our citizens are getting the opportunity to go to college and universities, and this grant is a way for students who otherwise would not have opportunity to go to college to get that education and to be contributing members to society and Illinois,” he said.
While lawmakers in Illinois are almost unanimously in support of continuing MAP funding, with Governor Quinn proposing a $436 million increase for next year, the issue in Springfield remains where funds will be reallocated to support the grant.
Last year MAP was cut by 17 percent, but unlike several other universities and colleges in the state, DePaul chose to make up the difference at no cost to students. As a proactive response plan to any future MAP cuts, Kuriakose drafted a 10-directive plan called “Protect DePaul,” which aims to prepare SGA and the university to maintain support of students in financial need if MAP was ever cut.
“In the past we’ve been more reactive, and Protect DePaul really aims to pivot SGA to be more proactive, and mobilize the university to respond in the event that MAP funding was taken away,” he said.
Kuriakose, who is a first year college student, also expressed the grant’s connection to DePaul’s mission. “It’s part of our identity to give access to higher education to those who normally wouldn’t have access to it.
“Illinois college enrollment has increased 200 percent over the past 40 years because of this grant. When you look at the long term, dividends are huge. We can’t look at this through a short term window,” he continued.
For students who do not receive the MAP grant, the trip to Springfield was about representing their classmates, and declaring their support for affordable education.
“I have a ton of friends who receive the MAP grant, and without it they would have to drop out,” said sophomore Tyler Walden.