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Student and Parent FAQs: Impact of State Budget Delay on ISAC Gift Assistance Programs

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Like many programs throughout the state, ISAC’s gift assistance programs continue to be impacted by the current budget stalemate. We understand that students and parents may have questions and concerns, so the following FAQ is designed to address general questions regarding the impact on ISAC programs.

For more detailed questions regarding your specific financial aid package and to find out how your college or university is handling gift assistance during the budget impasse, we encourage you to contact your school’s financial aid office.

See The Illinois Student Assistance Commission’s Resolution Encouraging Adoption of Fiscal Year 2016 Budget, approved by the Commission on October 15, 2015 and delivered to all members of the General Assembly, the Governor, and the leadership of the higher education community.

What is the budget stalemate and why might this affect my financial aid award?

Each year, the Illinois General Assembly and the Governor must approve a State budget, which outlines how taxpayer dollars and other revenues are to be spent. This budget is typically in place before July 1st, when the new State fiscal year begins. Unfortunately, the General Assembly and the Governor have not yet been able to agree on a complete budget for the 2016 fiscal year that began last summer (corresponding to the 2015-16 school year).

This means that since July 1, 2015, many state agencies like ISAC, and other organizations that receive state dollars (including public colleges and universities), have not known how much they would be able to spend on the programs they administer. For many programs and services, state agencies do not have the authority to spend funds unless and until the budget is final.

For the grant, scholarship, and loan repayment programs that ISAC administers, the budget delay has meant that while the agency can continue to review applications for gift assistance, it has had to wait for a final budget to know how much money will be available to be paid, and to make payment.

Please note that on April 25, 2016, Governor Rauner signed a stopgap funding measure that provides partial funding for higher education and for the Monetary Award Program for the 2015-16 academic year. The bill provides approximately $170 million for MAP, which ISAC will use to pay all first term (fall 2015 semester and fall 2015 quarter) claims on behalf of students. The bill does not provide funding for any of ISAC’s other gift assistance programs, which remain unfunded for the 2015-16 academic year. ISAC remains hopeful that a budget resolution will be reached that will fully fund MAP and ISAC’s other gift assistance programs for the 2015-16 school year.

When I got my financial aid award letter last year for the 2015-16 school year, it said I was getting a MAP (Monetary Award Program) grant. But because of the budget delay, I haven’t gotten the award yet. Will I get it?

While we cannot guarantee it, we are hopeful that the State will eventually pass a comprehensive budget, and that—like every Illinois State budget since 1967—it will include funding for MAP. The latest stopgap funding measure for MAP allows ISAC to pay MAP claims for the first term (fall 2015 semester and fall 2015 quarter) on behalf of students, but at the moment there has not been funding approved to pay the remaining MAP claims for the 2015-16 school year. MAP is paid directly to schools to cover tuition and fees for students who have received an award. As they awaited payment from the state, many colleges and universities either credited student accounts for MAP during the fall term or allowed students to continue to register and take classes with an open balance pending financial aid, but not all schools were able to do so. It appears that fewer schools are able to do so in the spring term. If you have been expecting a MAP award and have not heard from your school’s financial aid office, you may wish to check with them to learn whether they have credited your account for MAP.

The financial aid award letter that you received should have noted that MAP grant amounts are estimates and that they are awarded subject to appropriation—that is, the final dollar amount available for the program depends on funding approved by the General Assembly and the Governor. This means that the final level of approved funding for MAP could result in smaller grants, and it is possible that (after the payment of your first semester or first quarter grant) your remaining MAP award could be reduced or even eliminated.

My college credited my account with the expected MAP grant, but I have heard that some colleges are now asking students to pay that amount if MAP funding does not come through before the end of this term. Will I have to pay the college? What if I don’t have the money to pay for this?

If your college credited your account for the amount of your expected MAP grant for the fall 2015 semester or fall 2015 quarter, they should be receiving payment from the state for those amounts, and you should not have to pay those amounts back to the college. However, if they also credited your account for the amount of your expected MAP grant for the spring 2016 semester or second or third quarter 2016, it is possible that they could ask you to pay that amount if funding is not forthcoming from the state by the end of the term. Different colleges are handling the situation differently. We recommend that you check with the Financial Aid, Bursar or Student Financial Services office on your campus to learn about payment options that may be available to you.   

I just received a MAP award in my financial aid award letter for the upcoming 2016-17 academic year. Will I get the money?

We are hopeful but we cannot guarantee it. The financial aid award letter that you received should have noted that MAP grant amounts are estimates and that they are awarded subject to appropriation—that is, the final dollar amount available for the program depends on the State budget approved by the General Assembly and the Governor. This means that the level of funding for MAP in the final budget could result in smaller grants, and it is possible that your MAP award could be reduced or even eliminated.

Typically, a final budget for fiscal year 2017, which corresponds with the 2016-17 school year, would not be expected until late May or June, 2016.  So just as in any other fiscal year, ISAC would not expect to know the final MAP appropriation for the upcoming school year until at least late May or June. That said, because there is still not a final budget and only a partial MAP appropriation for the 2015-16 academic year, we recognize that there is uncertainty about the availability for MAP for 2016-17. We encourage students to contact their college financial aid office to better understand how the college will handle MAP if there is no appropriation for the program by the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year. We remain hopeful that there will be a final budget and full MAP appropriation for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 academic years.

What is the current status of funding bills for MAP in the Illinois General Assembly?

Please note that while the information below is current as of this writing, the status of legislation can change quickly. For the most up-to-date information on the progress of bills, please visit the Illinois General Assembly’s website at www.ilga.gov.

On April 25, 2016 Governor Rauner signed into law Public Act 99-0502, which provides partial funding for MAP and for higher education for the 2015-16 academic year. The bill provides approximately $170 million for MAP, which will pay all of first term (fall 2015 semester and fall 2015 quarter) MAP awards in full, but would not cover  the full year of MAP. There are a number of other budget proposals that have been filed that would add funding for higher education, although some of these are contingent on the passage of other legislation, such as reforms to the state's procurement laws. Most of these other funding proposals have not passed both chambers of the General Assembly, with the exception of SB 2046. That bill, which has been sent to the Governor for consideration, would increase MAP funding for the current fiscal year. Opponents argued that there would not be sufficient funding to pay for the bill in full; the Governor has said that he would veto it. The Governor’s proposed FY17 budget (corresponding to the 2016-17 academic year) would fund MAP at approximately $365 million (the amount that was available in FY15).

I applied to the Minority Teachers of Illinois Scholarship Program (MTI). When will I find out if I got the award and will I get the money if I qualified?

This depends on when the budget is finalized and the size of the final appropriation. Due to the structure of the program, ISAC is unable to announce MTI awards without a final budget in place. 

I applied to Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois Scholarship Program. When will I find out if I got the scholarship and will I get the money if I qualified?

If you are a Golden Apple applicant who has been certified as eligible for tuition assistance and confirmed to be in good standing with both Golden Apple and your college, the Golden Apple Foundation provided first-term (fall, 2015) tuition assistance through available Foundation funds.  Payment was made directly to your college. Until the budget is final, however, it is not known if Golden Apple will receive funding for subsequent terms.

What about ISAC’s Grant Programs for Dependents of Police/Fire/Correctional Officers? I received one of those grants in the past and applied again for 2015-16—will it be paid to my college or university?

Although it is not known how much funding these Dependents Grants programs will receive, ISAC continues to accept applications for the 2016 summer term. Announcements of eligibility are being made to students, but colleges are not able to certify eligibility or request payment until a final decision is made on the budget. 

In the event funds are insufficient to make awards to all timely qualified applicants, award amounts may be prorated and ISAC will notify qualified applicants explaining the proration percentage. This means that, depending on the amount of funding for the programs in the final budget, the size of the award may not be large enough to fully cover tuition and fees. We recommend that students work with their college or university regarding the award amount.

I am currently repaying my loans and believe I might be eligible for one of ISAC’s loan repayment/forgiveness programs. Are those programs still in place during the budget impasse?

ISAC cannot make payments to lenders through these programs until the final budget allows. Applications are not currently being accepted for ISAC's loan repayment/forgiveness programs.

Additional questions? Contact the ISAC Call Center at 800.899.ISAC (4722) or isac.studentservices@isac.illinois.gov, or your school’s financial aid office.