Yesterday the Governor signed HB5020, giving eligible low-income college students who receive need-based state financial aid priority access to an award in the following year. Under this new bill, beginning with the 2020-21 academic school year, Monetary Award Program (MAP) applicants who received a MAP award the prior year and who complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by a pre-determined priority date, are guaranteed to receive a renewed grant. The bill has gained attention from the higher education community and college students alike, many calling it the “four-year MAP bill.”

While HB5020 is an important step forward, true financial security will require a commitment by the state to fully fund need-based state aid to ensure that all eligible students, new and returning, can access and persist at any public college or university in the state. HB5020 will make it easier for returning students to secure MAP awards, but for the reasons that follow, a renewed grant is not guaranteed.

Here’s what you need to know about HB5020:

  • Renewing applicants must complete their FAFSA by the priority deadline. The bill requires the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) to annually publish a deadline by which renewing applicants must complete their FAFSA to receive priority funding. While missing the priority deadline does not mean the applicant is ineligible for a renewed grant, renewal will depend on the availability of MAP funds at the time of FAFSA application.
  • Applicants must continue to meet eligibility requirements. To qualify for a renewed MAP grant, applicants must continue to meet eligibility requirements including demonstrated financial need as determined by each applicant’s Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) and not being in default on any student loan.
  • First-time applicants might not receive an award.Until the state fully funds MAP to cover all eligible students, there is no guarantee an eligible student will receive a MAP award in year one, or any year thereafter. It’s important for applicants to file a FAFSA early since MAP is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

HB5020 gives students and their families a sense of financial security and helps Illinois provide more competitive financial aid packages to keep students in the state and on-track to degree completion. However, it is important to understand the bill’s provisions. More advocacy will be needed to ensure all eligible students receive a MAP award to cover the cost of college.

If you or your student will be attending college in academic year 2020-21, put October 1, 2019 in your calendar. This is the approximate date ISAC will be publishing the priority deadline for FAFSA submission for renewing applicants. And for first-time applicants, remember to apply early! If you have additional questions, please reference ISAC’s HB5020 student Q&A here.

Emily Goldman