Students scramble as college aid runs out in Ill.

March 26, 2012 3:41:55 PM PDT
Illinois has once again run out of cash earlier than usual for the Monetary Award Program, also known as MAP grants.

The grants are a primary source of financial aid in the state and are awarded to thousands of students on a first come, first serve basis.

Chicago City College officials say they usually have two to three weeks to notify students that funding is running out, but that was not the case this year.

"We tried to encouraged our students to apply by March 1st because we did not know what the deadline was going to be," said Kristen McRoberts, district director of financial aid at City Colleges. "This is the first year in which ISAC [Illinois Student Assistance Commission] told us a deadline date that has already passed. Previously they would give us one to two weeks so we could notify students."

Aaron Fuerte, 23, is a student at Truman College. He was relying on a MAP grant to help him go to school but he missed the deadline. He says it will force him to continue working dead end jobs for a longer time.

"I'm going to have to go to school longer," Fuerte told ABC7. "I am not going to be able to pay for books like I did before, and having to pay bills and then pay for this, too, it is going to be very hard. That grant helped me a lot."

"Although he missed out on the MAP grant, he can still apply for a Pell grant ... or a federal work study as well as other scholarships," said McRoberts . "The financial aid office will work with him to try to maximize his aid."

MAP grants allow students to continue their education.

Christopher Schreiner returned to school in the fall of last year after working in real estate for years. He is a full time student and volunteers by tutoring other students. Schreiner applied early and has been notified that he will be getting the MAP grant.

"It makes a big difference," Schreiner said.

Experts say students should fill out the Free Application for Student Aid application.

"Students should complete the FASA application because there is other aid out there throught the federal government such as Pell grant," said McRoberts. "There are scholarship opportunities as well."

McRoberts said this year the federal government reduced the amount of grants by 5 percent.

The news comes as more students are looking to attend community colleges because they are more affordable than a four-year university.