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DePaul responds to potential MAP cuts

By Katherine Hall
On January 15, 2012

DePaul students may remember in October 2009, when more than 200 students rallied in Springfield to protest a planned 50 percent budget cut to the Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP). Another 15 students traveled to Springfield in March of 2011 to continue to show their support for the MAP grant's continued existence.

With almost a quarter of its students utilizing MAP grants to offset the cost of a private university education, DePaul is keeping a close eye on developments at the state level.

The MAP grant was "a huge reason why I attended DePaul," said Anthony Alfano, a senior and president of DePaul's Student Government Association (SGA).

"Two years ago, my ability to stay [at DePaul] was threatened [by the proposed cut, and with approximately 4,600 students at risk of losing their grants at the time, the rally at Springfield was a necessity.

"Many students would have to reevaluate whether they could continue to attend DePaul," he said.

SGA has been working to put together a response plan, which they are calling "Protect DePaul".

The project is spearheaded by Abin Kuriakose, the senator for Community and Government Relations. Kuriakose said he wants to provide a framework to give the university a strong voice in Illinois legislature, should further cuts be proposed.

"The plan [Protect DePaul] isn't necessarily a plan B... to make up the money, [but] plan respond if cuts ever happen," Kuriakose said.

According to Kuriakose, the plan, which is currently being reviewed by other members of SGA and other university groups, would utilize social media like Facebook and Twitter, as well as traditional fliers and press conferences to mobilize the university and send an immediate message to state legislators.

"If we have a strong voice, that would really help the lawmakers who support us," said Kuriakose. "The idea is that if on Day One cuts are made [to MAP grants], then on Day Two we'll hit the ground running."

Kuriakose hopes the plan will serve as a basis that future student government officers can use to respond to similar financial issues.

SGA is not the only group building a response. After the first cut, DePaul's administration developed a plan to allocate funds to student aid, to compensate for any grant money lost to MAP cuts.

Meg Glick, the scholarship director at the Office for Financial Aid, said she knew such a program was still in place, though she was not certain on the specific amount.

Fortunately, MAP students likely will not need to utilize it this year.

"The most recent thing we've heard is that they aren't planning to [reduce] MAP further this year," Glick said, indicating to the remaining quarters of the 2011-2012 year.

Kuriakose said he had not heard the details of the university's plan, but said that the committee welcomed any and all news that helped DePaul prepare for this possibility.

At present, the MAP grants have been cut by 5 percent, but lawmakers have not ruled out further cuts in future years. A contentious election year could also stir up trouble for MAP, as candidates for all levels of government promise budget cuts to bolster the sluggish economy.

"I do see [elections] as an issue ... typically, when a candidate says they will 'cut cut cut', MAP is one of the things at risk," Alfano said.

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