Better late than never

Stacey Dach

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Finally! Almost one full year late, the fall 2016 and spring 2017 MAP grants have arrived at Highland Community College. The Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants were, at long last, released by the State of Illinois in July.  As has been par for the course with the state lately, students had to wait until just recently to get last years’ monies. These awards, based in most cases on the student’s parent’s income, ranged from $350 up to about $1,700.  “As soon as we got it in, we tried to turn it around as quickly as we could,” said Kathy Bangasser, director of financial aid at the college. “It came at the worst possible time,” she added.

Money for students who were eligible for fall awards was distributed first followed by those receiving monies for the spring semester. The last group to get funds were those students who were initially not qualified for the MAP, but extra money was found and allocated. Some of those students are still in the process of providing documented proof of Illinois residency in order to collect the money. Also required of students in order to receive any of these MAP funds is that they remain in good standing with the college and that they must be making satisfactory academic progress.  

Students should be aware that there will be some changes to the program for 2018, Bangasser said. “For next year, you can start completing that FAFSA form on October 1st, and do it just as quickly as possible,” she recommended. New this year is the fact that students will be using tax information from two years prior- meaning 2016 taxes. Unless a student is 24 years of age, married, has children they are supporting, are a veteran of the armed services, or are an orphan or ward of the state, their parent’s tax information is required to be submitted on the FAFSA.  The MAP funds, which can be used for tuition and fees only, do run out quickly, so students should not delay. “We really encourage our students to get their FAFSA done early,” Bangasser said.

So, fellow students, do not be like the state of Illinois and get around to it ‘someday.’ Set an alarm on the cellular device and fill out that FAFSA form on October 1st. After all, if qualified, it’s free money for college! Why not be at the front of that line? 

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Better late than never