It’s a dilemma just about every student can relate to paying tuition.
And it’s a dilemma that might be a lot harder for about 25 percent of the student body next semester.
In July, the state legislature passed a budget covering only half the year. This leaves the second half up in the air, and could leave 148,000 students at schools across the state with half the state funding they were promised through MAP Grants.
“The MAP Grant is 100 percent important to the funding of my education,” said Amie Betzwieser, junior English secondary education and political science major. “The grant means that I can graduate.”
She is among 1,400 or so other Bradley students facing the loss of half their MAP Grants, which are awarded based on a family’s need. That need is based on the FAFSA forms each student fills out in the spring.
“If [the grants aren’t funded], my diploma is at risk – there’s no other way to put it,” Betzwieser said. “As it is, I do not earn enough money to pay my tuition, medical bills and bills in general.”
But next semester isn’t the only concern for students.
“If, in future years, the grant still isn’t refunded, I think it will add a couple years to my education here at Bradley,” said junior English secondary education major Lyra Johnson. “I love Bradley, but it is expensive. Maybe an alternative school with lower tuition and lower costs of living could be an option.”
In an attempt to address concerns of grant recipients, and to spell out a plan of action, the university hosted a series of mandated meetings this week.
“If we get everybody engaged, we can get this funding reinstated,” said Dave Pardieck, financial assistance director, to a group of students on Monday night. “We hope that with that involvement, this thing will really go viral.”
He encouraged students to write letters to their state representatives and senators in hopes of encouraging them to bring the issue up when they return to Springfield in October.
At a meeting on Monday night, several students asked what the university’s plan is if the state doesn’t renew the funding.
“We’re not willing to go to Plan B,” Pardieck said. “If we do our jobs, if you guys do your jobs, we’re sure the state legislators will fund the grants.”
While administration doesn’t plan on putting together a full back-up plan, there are some safety nets of additional loans from the government or, possibly, private lenders.
Students at the meetings were also encouraged to sign up to go to Springfield on Oct. 15 to participate in a large student rally.
Alan Galsky, vice president for student affairs, said he’s willing to write letters to professors if students wish to miss a class for the rally.
University President Joanne Glasser is hosting a luncheon with area legislators on Oct. 7 in hopes of further demonstrating the grant’s importance.
Regardless of the legislature’s decision, students facing a gap in next semester’s funding put a face on the political cost of this debate.
“As a future educator, and by my own example, I have always believed that if you work hard enough, you can receive a higher education,” Johnson said. “Now, however, that belief is starting to fade.”