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

Last updated: January 24, 2017

Like many programs and services, ISAC’s gift assistance programs have been impacted over the past two years by the budget issues in the State. Pursuant to a variety of court orders and separate funding measures, some fiscal year 2016 programs and services were funded either in part or in full, and some funding came after the official end of the fiscal year. Some programs were left unfunded. Fiscal year 2017 began on July 1, 2016, without a final budget. 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 programs during the budget delay, we encourage you to contact your school’s financial aid office.

As it did for Fiscal Year 2016, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission has approved a Resolution Encouraging Adoption of Fiscal Year 2017, which encourages legislators to adopt a state budget for fiscal year 2017 that will provide the necessary funding for students, community colleges and public universities as well as provide Illinois public higher education with the resources needed to advance the state’s economic future. The Commission approved the Resolution on December 1, 2016 and it was delivered to all members of the General Assembly, the Governor, and the leadership of the higher education community.

ISAC continues to work with the General Assembly and the governor’s office to advocate for program funding and to provide data and information to assist elected officials in making funding determinations.

What is the budget delay 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 were not able to agree on a complete budget for the 2016 fiscal year (corresponding to the 2015-16 school year), nor have they agreed on a complete budget for fiscal year 2017 (corresponding to the 2016-17 academic year), which began on July 1, 2016.

For the better part of the 2015-16 academic year, many state agencies like ISAC, and other organizations that receive state dollars (including public colleges and universities), did not know 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 means that while the agency can continue to review applications for gift assistance, it has to wait for an appropriation or a final budget to know how much money will be available to be paid, and to make payment.

Late in the 2015-16 academic year, two pieces of “stopgap funding” provided some funding for colleges and universities, as well as for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) and other ISAC gift assistance programs. From July through September 2016, payments to colleges and universities were processed to pay 2015-16 MAP grants for students who were eligible to receive them. In addition, the funding measure approved in late June 2016 also provided some support, although at half the prior year’s level, for the Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois Program and the Grant Program for Dependents of Police, Fire, and Correctional Officers killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty.

As of today, MAP and ISAC’s other gift assistance programs are not yet funded for the 2016-17 academic year. Notably, the governor and legislators in both chambers indicated that they are still interested in providing “an appropriate level of support” for MAP in fiscal year 2017. The General Assembly reconvened in January and it is anticipated that they will work on developing a comprehensive budget for the fiscal year during their session.

FAQs: 2016-17 Academic Year

I 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. MAP has been included in every comprehensive Illinois budget since 1967, and funding was ultimately provided for 2015-16 MAP awards, albeit at the very end of the fiscal year. We are hopeful that the State will pass a comprehensive budget for fiscal year 2017 (corresponding to the 2016-17 academic year) that will include funding for MAP. While the governor and legislators have expressed their support for MAP funding, there is currently no MAP appropriation for the 2016-17 academic year. A budget is not expected until sometime after January 24, 2017, the date on which the General Assembly reconvened.

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.

As they did in fall 2015, some colleges and universities have already indicated that student accounts have been credited for MAP for the fall 2016 term as they await payment from the State. However, we encourage students to contact their college financial aid office to better understand how your college is handling MAP with no appropriation so far for the program for 2016-17 academic year.

Will there be funding for MTI Scholarships, Grants for Dependents of Police/Fire/Correctional Officers and Golden Apple Scholarships for the 2016-17 academic year?

While there currently is no funding for these programs for 2016-17, we remain hopeful that there will be a final budget agreement later in the winter that will provide adequate program funding.

Will there be funding for ISAC’s loan repayment/forgiveness programs for the 2016-17 academic year?

While there currently is no funding for these programs for the 2016-17 academic year, as with our other programs, we remain hopeful that there will be a final budget agreement later in the winter that will provide funding. Even during years when these programs have been funded, there has not been sufficient funding to cover all applicants. Applications for some of these programs, such as the Illinois Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, have been posted, and we encourage eligible students to complete the application as soon as possible in order to have an opportunity to receive loan repayment funding through that program, should funding be made available.

ISAC is not accepting applications for the other state loan forgiveness programs at this time. See information listed for each program at http://www.isac.org/students/after-college/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.