Miscalculation costing ISU $50,000 in MAP grants

2013-05-06T06:00:00Z 2013-05-06T08:36:12Z Miscalculation costing ISU $50,000 in MAP grantsBy Lenore Sobota | lsobota@pantagraph.com pantagraph.com

NORMAL — A miscalculation by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission is going to cost Illinois State University about $50,000, according to university leaders.

The state agency is reducing by about 10 percent the grants awarded to about 9,800 students through the Monetary Award Program because it ran short of funds. Statewide, that comes to about $2 million.

For Heartland Community College, it means a loss of about $8,100, President Allen Goben said.

ISAC spokesman John Samuels said the problem happened when more students than expected claimed their grants this spring.

The agency’s $371 million appropriation doesn’t cover all who are eligible, so grants are awarded based on the filing date of those who qualify.

Just like colleges accept more students than they have room for and airlines overbook flights, Samuels said, more people are initially notified they will get MAP grants than the agency has money for. In all three cases, it is expected that not everyone will show up.

The agency had released extra funds in January after the amount of money claimed by students in fall semester was lower than expected, Samuels explained.

“Then, all of sudden, the claim rate shot up for the second term,” Samuels said.

He said the agency uses “some pretty sophisticated models” — accounting or such variables as how many students will claim the grants, how many classes they will take and whether they will attend a university or a community college, the latter being less costly.

“But if the underlying behavior changes dramatically,” he said, the model formulas don’t work.

Rather than trying to take a small amount back from the 141,000 students who received MAP grants — many of whom may already have left school — the agency, in consultation with school financial aid leaders, focused on the 9,800 students who received grants after the acceptance date was extended.

Individual schools are in the process of identifying those students but, rather than ask the students to pay the shortfall, most — if not all — schools are absorbing the costs.

Samuels said he doesn’t know of any schools, at this point, who are asking the students for money.

Jana Albrecht, ISU’s director of financial aid, said the university will use a combination of need-based grant dollars and tuition waivers set aside for hardship cases to make up the difference. She said 141 students are affected at ISU.

Likewise, Kim Donat, Heartland’s director of financial aid, said, “The key here is all of our students will receive the amount of money they were told they would get. … They need it.”

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