EDUCATION
03/21/2012 12:48 pm ET | Updated Mar 22, 2012

Illinois Runs Out Of Financial Aid: State Depletes College Assistance Funding Early (VIDEO)

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College-bound Illinois students seeking financial aid to offset their tuition costs will be turned away if their application was received after March 13, because the state has run out of money.

Illinois received a record high flood of Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSAs) from current or prospective college students vying for a piece of the state's Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant money this year, prompting the Illinois Student Aid Commission (ISAC) to suspend fund disbursement starting March 14, the Northern Star reports. Before the ISAC put a hold on all grants, they had lowered the maximum award from $4,968 last year in anticipation of less available money and a greater need this year.

MAP funding is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, and the Chicago Tribune reports that FAFSA aid requests were received from between 140,000 to 145,000 students by March 13, for values that will deplete the available funding for the 2012-13 year. Request submitted on or after March 14, a deadline announced by officials Tuesday, will be denied, affecting an estimated 140,000 students who will still seek aid for the coming academic year.

Colleges were alerted Friday that further applications would be ineligible for grant awards. FAFSA applications have been accepted since Jan. 1, according to the federal application's website.

ISAC spokesman John Samuels says the March cutoff marks the earliest the state has ever run out of MAP grant funding, according to the Associated Press.

Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed adding an additional $50 million to the $387 million sum Illinois awarded the ISAC to continue the grant program this year, to meet the increased need, the Tribune reports. But Samuels says the anticipated need would call for $1 billion to fund financial aid for each applicant.

The funding shortages coincide with rising college costs, particularly at in-state schools. DePaul University students have been engaged in a battle with administrators over proposed 5 percent increase in tuition for incoming students and 2.2 percent for current students.

The University of Illinois blamed diminished state funding for a 4.8 percent tuition increase planned for next year, after a 6.9 percent hike last year, bringing the annual tuition costs to more than $24,000 at the Urbana-Champaign campus.

Critics and school officials say the financial aid drought will have the most negative impact on the state's neediest students. Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford told NBC Chicago he hopes the state legislature will address the funding shortage when the General Assembly reconvenes in Springfield Wednesday.

"When you start to look at choices you have regards to spending, I don't think there's any question with regards to public safety and education opportunities for not just young-young people but mature older people," Rutherford said on NBC, later adding: "We need to start to prioritize, and those two are very important to have happen."

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