The Illinois Student Assistance Commission reports a drop in submitted financial aid applications compared to 2015, but also says it may be too soon to tell.
That’s because the FAFSA filing period for next school year opened early on Oct. 1, rather than January.
Those who apply will use their 2015 tax information and will not need to update it with their 2016 taxes.
The FAFSA application covers federal loans and awards, like the MAP grant. Some Illinois schools had to credit student accounts last year until they received appropriations. The funding for these grants is still undetermined, since state lawmakers have not agreed on a full spending plan.
Lynne Baker, with the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, says state colleges were able to front grant money last year until they received appropriations, but this year could pose new obstacles if the budget gridlock continues.
“We’ve definitely seen that it’s become more and more difficult, for example, for community colleges to credit student accounts for MAP," Baker said. "And there are other schools, I think, that have had difficulty."
Baker says the lack of state funding affects every college differently, so students should be proactive in the financial aid process.
"Every school has handled this differently. And that’s why it’s very, very important for students to talk with the financial aid office or the bursar’s office, and find out how their school is handling MAP, if in fact they have a MAP award," Baker said.
Baker says there are free resources, like workshops, for students to get help with financial aid applications.