Illinois' MAP grants — the monetary award program for low-income college students — would be available to more students if a bill approved by the legislature this month becomes law. MAP grants are currently unavailable students who don't qualify for federal financial aid. In Illinois, that includes about 1,200 students who immigrated to the US as children.
But State Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago) mentioned his daughters’ soccer teammates, who were brought here as babies, to explain his support for the legislation.
"Those girls are every bit as American as my daughters, and I think they should have the same opportunities as my daughters,” Cunningham said.
State Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove) argued that MAP funds already fall short of covering all the students who need them.
"That means that if we're going to add new people, who are not citizens, and give them some of the MAP funding, that means we're taking away that funding from other legal citizens. So, does that seem fair? That we divert funds from citizens to give them to non-citizens?" Oberweis asked. "This is just absolutely fundamentally wrong."
Besides immigrants, the bill would also include a larger group — about 1,700 students who have used MAP to pay for 75 credit hours without having attained the status of juniors — and a small group of about 300 transgender students who don’t qualify for federal aid if they haven’t registered for the draft. Those three groups would expand eligibility by just 1 percent.
Seven other states (California, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Texas and Washington) already have adopted similar laws.
Both the House and the Senate approved the bill. Its next stop will be Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk.