• FEATURED REPORT: Unequal Opportunity in Illinois: A Look at Who Graduates College and Why It Matters

    FEATURED REPORT: Unequal Opportunity in Illinois: A Look at Who Graduates College and Why It Matters

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Illinois’ Higher Education Budget Requests $25 Million for Nonpublic Institutions: Here’s How to Make It Equitable

December 6, 2018, Chicago, IL — In a proposal unveiled on Tuesday as part of its FY2020 budget recommendations, the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) is requesting a $25 million taxpayer subsidy to private institutions. If enacted, these funds have the potential to be either a carve out for higher income students, or a tool for improving equity in Illinois higher education; it all depends on the implementation details.

The recommendation, titled "Financial Assistance for Nonpublic Institutions," would revive a program that awarded $21 million to private institutions in FY2000, which itself was based on the rationale that Illinois should maintain a diversity of higher education institutions. How this act fits in with modern higher education goals of equity is left undetermined: "rules for the program would be developed to maximize current state goals," the proposal reads.

In 2016, $136 million went toward making private universities more affordable for MAP students and yet a MAP grant only covers 14% of tuition at these colleges, less than half of the amount it covers at Illinois' public universities. Sticker price aside, the average cost to low-income families is more than 30% greater at private institutions compared to at public universities. Further, these schools serve lower percentages of underrepresented and low-income students than public universities. So how can this $25 million be a force for equity, compared to better funding the MAP grants, a need-based program that goes directly to students, for example?

While private colleges do tend to have higher graduation rates for minority and low-income students, they also serve these populations more selectively. The Financial Assistance for Nonpublic Institutions program could counteract this selection and give more opportunities to underrepresented students by only distributing funds to colleges in proportion with their increases in number of underrepresented students served, and as matching grants that fund financial aid for those students. This would guarantee that taxpayer dollars are going toward increasing the rates at which better resourced private colleges serve the students who need it most, while simultaneously lowering the price of college for these students.

The original program was created in response to a 1961 statute calling for "maintain[ing] a diversity of public and private institutions." PCC agrees that a healthy state higher education system should include a diverse tapestry of high-quality postsecondary options for all students, provided that these institutions serve students equitably. As proponents of the current iteration acknowledge, how it's implemented is critical. Only a plan that allots funds as a condition of better serving underrepresented students, however, can turn this budget request into one that increases equity for Illinois' students.



About:​
The Partnership for College Completion is a new nonprofit organization launched to catalyze and champion policies, systems and practices that ensure all students in and around Chicago - particularly low-income, first generation students - graduate from college and achieve their career aspirations. Launching this regional organization is the culmination of a two-year planning process that was led by Forefront's College and Career Access, Persistence and Success (CCAPS) group and involved hundreds of stakeholders from across Chicago, the region and the nation. For more information: partnershipfcc.org

Contact:
Mike Abrahamson
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Emily Goldman
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Backstory: Kyle Westbrook, Partnership for College Completion

Kyle Westbrook grew up in Springfield expecting to be an astronaut, not an education activist.

But his experiences led Westbrook, 44, to a career in education — as a history teacher at Lincoln Park High School, to an education policy leader in the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and now as the founding executive director of the Partnership for College Completion. Unlike myriad organizations that prepare students to be "college ready," the nonprofit works to prepare colleges so they can help low-income, first-generation African-American and Latino students graduate. 

What was the genesis of the Partnership for College Completion?

A group of foundations realized they had made a tremendous amount of investment in supporting students in their K-12 education, but hadn't done enough to support students through their college experience. 

What drove you to do this work in the nonprofit sector?


Seeing students with so much potential and intelligence and not seeing them realize that potential, whether it was because they couldn't finish high school because of circumstances, or in many cases they'd finish high school but were never going to complete college for a variety of reasons. It was never because of intellect or ability. It's what motivated me in this role. They never had access to the middle class in the way I did. 

What is the biggest challenge facing low-income and students of color today?

A high school diploma is just not going to be sufficient because of the complexity of our economy. I read a recent study that found around 98 percent of the new jobs created require some sort of post-secondary education. So the challenge is how do we decrease the number of low-income students who are going to college but don't graduate? This impacts the life outcomes for those students. Not only do they end up without a degree, but oftentimes they end up with student loans and student debts. In many ways, they are often worse off for having gone to college if they haven't completed it. 

You worked for Mayor Rahm Emanuel before launching the partnership. What role does politics play in education policy?

In the best case scenario you have multiple groups that align to come together for a shared agenda. Where politics tends to derail education is when we have politicians who act in ways that aren't clearly aligned with what our students need. 

How do you start your morning?

Waking up and checking emails to make sure there's no emergency. Assuming there's not, I get up and exercise. No matter how hard or light, it makes me feel better about the day. 

What did you want to be when you grew up?

An astronaut. I had a fascination with space. I'm still interested in astronomy. 

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Reverse Onerous State Cuts to Higher Education

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Letter to the Editor | Reverse Onerous State Cuts to Higher Education | Chicago Sun Times​

We applaud the Sun-Times' focus on addressing the debt burden faced by too many of our college students and the ripple effect it has across families and communities.

Nivine Megahed, president of National Louis University, has rightly called for radically rethinking tuition structures and the business model for higher education. Larger public investment in our students is equally important.

A key factor contributing to increased student debt has been the decline in state investment in higher education by the General Assembly and governors of both parties. Thus, the burden of financing a college education has now been largely shifted to students and their families.

We must reverse the decline in the number of students receiving Illinois' need-based student aid program, the Illinois Monetary Assistance Program award, and commit to funding the MAP award at a level that ensures that every student who qualifies receives the award. Funding must also ensure that the award covers the cost of tuition at the state's public universities, as it did as recently as 2002.

While the recent budget passed by the Legislature is an important first step in reversing over a decade of disinvestment in higher education, much more is needed from our elected officials in order to lessen the financial burden of higher education on the state's low-income and working class students. The health of our students and our state depends on it.

Kyle Westbrook, The Partnership for College Completion


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