Wheaton College is in the process of trying to raise $275,000 by an initial deadline of this Friday, March 4, in order to make up for the losses in state funding that threaten to affect around five percent of the entire undergraduate population at Wheaton College.
Director of financial aid Karen Belling told The Record that 125 Wheaton students have an average of $4,400 in Monetary Award Program (MAP) Grant funds in jeopardy, since Ill. Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill on Feb. 19 that would have provided those state funds to students from low-income Illinois families attending colleges like Wheaton. This veto was just upheld by the Illinois Senate and the Illinois House failed to override it.
Director of development Kevin Engel said of the fundraising endeavor, “I’m not aware that we’ve ever attempted something like this before.” Raising that much money in a short amount of time, he said, would require a “concerted effort.” The school currently plans to take on 97 donors to meet the financial need of the students who would usually receive MAP grant funding.
The initial deadline of March 4, which Belling said was “not a hard deadline,” was set so that students would not need to register for their fall classes while in debt to Wheaton. If they are in more than $1,000 of debt, those students would be categorized ineligible to register for Fall semester classes.
Donations to this initiative are still coming in — Engel informed The Record that another $10,000 commitment arrived for the fund on the morning of Wednesday, March. 2. Engel said that he presented the initiative to the Regional Directors on Feb. 19, the same day that Governor Rauner issued his veto.
Twelve days later, on the night of March 2, Engel said, “I don’t think it’s a large amount that has been committed yet.”
Across the state of Illinois, thousands of students who receive MAP funding have voiced their discontent with the governor’s decision to veto the bill, evident in the protests staged in Springfield, Ill on Feb. 17.
If the MAP grant is appropriated after the school awards the new scholarships to the students in need of funding, Belling told The Record that the financial aid office will replace the scholarships with the MAP Grant and use the funds to establish new need-based scholarships “to be used in future years.”
When asked whether he thought Wheaton would reach its goal in time, Engel said, “To be honest, I have no idea.” At the same time, he considered it his role to inform alumni, parents and friends about the situation and request that they “make it a matter for prayer.”
“Then it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to tell people if or how much to give,” Engel said. “We trust that in one way or another, God will help students meet this need.”