• NEW FEATURED REPORT:
    Priced Out: Rural Students, On Illinois’ Disinvestment In Higher Education & What Can Be Done About It

    Read more

The Cost of College For Black Students Highlighted At NIU Event

The Cost for College for Black Students Highlighted

November 19, 2019

PETER MEDLIN - Northern Public Radio

The Partnership for College Completion held an event at Northern Illinois University discussing their new reports on the cost of college, specifically for black students.

Along with university officials and local lawmakers, several black NIU students came to the event to talk about their own challenges paying for school.

Gabrielle Sims is a junior at NIU.

She said low-income and minority students can often miss out on college experience.

"You have to work a job that pays but you also want to get experienced in your field," she said, "but the internship is unpaid, and they're both the same amount of hours. You know you've got to pick between paying your phone bill or getting experience in your field to build your resume."

The reports found black students disproportionately take on more loans to pay for college, and at higher rates of interest than their white peers.

But that's if they can even afford to continue their degree at all.

"I know too many people at NIU, too many good students at NIU," said Sims, "who have had to leave because they didn't get their MAP grant like they used to."

The reports call for an increase in MAP grant funding and other need-based aid targeting low-income and underrepresented students.

Glennita Williams is a senior at NIU studying political science. She said she's seen a lot of friends -- black students -- who have had to drop out because they simply couldn't afford to continue their education.

"I was able to get grants and my first semester, but my dad had a pay increase, which kicked me out of state grants," said Williams. "So that's that equity versus equality because I had that opportunity, but no longer able to do that because of a situation."

Williams said, in her case, even though NIU did a good job helping her find scholarships and grants so she can finish, she's still going to graduate in a few months with $50,000 worth of debt.

In the past decade, black student enrollment has dropped across the state everywhere except at for-profit institutions. Those colleges are also more costly than public or private-non-profit schools.

Source: https://www.northernpublicradio.org/post/cost-college-black-students-highlighted-niu-event

Continue reading
37 Hits

ISU News: Priced Out: Rural Students On Illinois’ Disinvestment In Higher Education & What Can Be Done About It

November 1, 2019

Over the last two decades, Illinois has gone through a period of disinvestment in higher education, seeing continued losses in higher education appropriations and underinvestment in student financial aid. From 2002 to 2018, funding for Illinois public universities was cut over 50 percent and community colleges saw similar disinvestment. This environment created an increased financial strain for the state's colleges and universities, leaving them little choice but to raise tuition in order to make up for the loss in funding, effectively shifting the burden to pay onto students. (Partnership for College Completion)

Source: https://news.illinoisstate.edu/2019/11/higher-education-resources-90/

Continue reading
36 Hits

New Reports Say, In Order to Increase Equity, Illinois Needs to Change How It Funds Higher Ed

Northern Public Radio

November 13, 2019

PETER MEDLIN - Northern Public Radio

An advocacy group is calling on Illinois to make higher education more equitable for students. It says that means changing the way it funds post-secondary schooling.

Before they dug into the numbers, Kyle Westbrook said his group wanted to try to reframe the conversation around the cost of college in Illinois.

He's the executive director of the Partnership for College Completion. The organization just released three "Priced Out" reports analyzing state disinvestment in higher education. He said universities and lawmakers have often looked at higher-ed funding from the point of view of the schools.

And while it's important to talk about program cuts, layoffs and maintenance, they wanted the reports to be from the students' perspective.

"It shouldn't be surprising that as higher education has become much less affordable over the last 15 years, particularly for low-income students," he said, "it shouldn't be a surprise that we see that impact being felt on students who are at least able to afford to attend college."

The organization says state funding for public universities has fallen 50% since 2002. Community colleges have experienced similar dis-investments.

The reports look at three student groups who experience affordability challenges: African-American, LatinX and students who live in rural communities.

The number of black students enrolled at Illinois public and private non-profit universities fell by thousands over the past decade.

Westbrook said the Partnership was also dismayed to find those students disproportionately take on loans and debt at higher rates to fund their education.

"It's not even close between where black students are borrowing on average and where LatinX and white students are borrowing," he said. "I think the gap was pretty substantial and surprising to us to see. And obviously the implications are for generations of students, not just the students who borrow themselves."

Westbrook said because of these findings, his organization believes the state should change how higher-ed is funded. The reports propose changes that would incentivize public universities and community colleges to recruit underrepresented low-income and minority students.

"Do all students see our public institutions as viable options?," said Westbrook. "And I think that, you know, obviously the answer to that is no."

This spring, Illinois lawmakers passed a "direct admissions" pilot program. This would automatically admit students to participating public colleges and universities if they finished in the top 10% of their class, along with a few other requirements.

The report advocates for similar programs, especially if they're expanded to further help those underrepresented students.

The report also recommends scaling back merit-based scholarship programs in favor of increased need-based aid like the state's Monetary Award Program, or MAP.

"What we end up doing often with our merit-based programs," he said, "is we end up sort of making the rich richer."

That's because of how much those scholarships factor in scores from tests like the ACT and SAT. Westbrook said those aren't good barometers of college success. He said grade point averages are more accurate.

That's because, he said, wealthier schools can offer more test prep courses and tutors to help kids perform better on those tests.

Once they're in college, African-American and LatinX students are disproportionately tossed into zero-credit developmental courses.

"Students are spending their money or their precious financial aid on those courses," said Westbrook. "We know that there are better ways to do it."

For that, the report proposes transitional math and science classes in high school to keep up academic momentum going into college.

The research finds one area where Illinois higher-ed succeeds is in bachelor's degree completion for transfer students.

But Westbrook said it's important to disaggregate that data. LatinX students are much less likely to transfer at all. They're less likely to take out loans. And more likely to be first-generation college students.

Another group much less likely to transfer are students from rural communities.

Westbrook said these students are too often left out of higher-ed discussions in Illinois.

That could partially be due to shifting demographics, as rural populations shrink more and more.

"If state policy can't reverse those macro trends," he said, "state policy certainly should not accelerate them."

There are other college experiences outside the classroom that are inaccessible to many students. Those can be unpaid internships or study abroad trips.

"There are all of these hidden costs of college," he said. "That can either enrich the experience for students, or can make the experience not as impactful as it could be, or than it is for certain groups of students who could afford those opportunities."

Westbrook said that's because the true cost of college goes far beyond tuition or room and board.

This story was also featured on Tri States Public Radio on November 14, 2019.

Source: https://www.northernpublicradio.org/post/new-reports-say-order-increase-equity-illinois-needs-change-how-it-funds-higher-ed



Continue reading
36 Hits

Rurality, Race, and College Access in Illinois

November 11, 2019

Dr. Marci Rockey - Office of Community College Research and Leadership College of Education University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The Partnership for College Completion recently released the third in a series of reports on college affordability and access in Illinois. These reports center the impact of state disinvestment in higher education on three student subpopulations including Black, Latinx, and rural students (Partnership for College Completion, 2019). While rural Illinois is predominately white, these subpopulations are not mutually exclusive due to growing racial diversity across the state. Geographical context has implications for racial equity with Latinx students from rural areas having a lower likelihood of obtaining a college degree, while the odds for Black students are consistently low across the state (Partnership for College Completion, 2019). In sum, addressing both racial and geographic educational inequities are critically important.

Rural students are especially impacted by inadequate funding for the state's Monetary Award Program (MAP) that is allocated on a first-come, first-served basis (Mugglestone, Dancy, & Voight, 2019; Partnership for College Completion, 2019). Community college students in Illinois are four times more likely than students at the state's public universities to be denied this funding, which disproportionately impacts rural students who are more likely to enter higher education through these institutions (Partnership for College Completion, 2019). Additional challenges to affordability for rural students include an increased likelihood of being in the lowest income bracket and traveling 40% farther to physically get to a college (Partnership for College Completion, 2019).

For rural students in the lowest income bracket who do access the state's public universities, the cost associated with attendance is among the highest nationwide (Partnership for College Completion, 2019). My own research on rural populations in higher education began by studying the declining enrollment of rural Illinois students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Nationwide, the Institute for Higher Education Policy has identified that most flagship institutions, founded on a historical mission of expanding access for their state's residents, are unaffordable to low-income students (Mugglestone et al., 2019). The recently implemented Illinois Commitment financial aid program has coincided with increased racial and geographic diversity among the freshmen class at Illinois (Vance, 2019). However, access issues for rural students go beyond cost.

Inequities prior to college for developing college and career readiness are of great concern for advancing educational access and attainment for rural students."

While a lack of affordability is indeed problematic, inequities prior to college for developing college and career readiness are of great concern for advancing educational access and attainment for rural students. The impact of the state's teacher shortage on rural districts (Gaines, 2018), as well as being among the states with the lowest average salaries for rural educators (Showalter et al., 2019), exacerbates this opportunity gap. Only 5.6% of rural juniors and seniors in Illinois high schools pass at least one Advanced Placement (AP) exam (Showalter, Hartman, Johnson, & Klein, 2019). However, rural high school students nationwide are more likely to participate in dual-enrollment courses (Showalter et al., 2019). In Illinois, 31.6% of rural female students and 28.8% of rural male students participate in these courses (Showalter et al., 2019). This points to the critical need for partnerships between high schools and postsecondary institutions, especially community colleges, to fill opportunity gaps for developing college and career readiness in rural school districts.

Addressing inequitable funding structures that disadvantage rural school districts, as well as state colleges and universities and financial aid programs that serve rural students, are at the root of overcoming barriers to college access and completion (Mugglestone et al., 2019; Partnership for College Completion, 2019; Showalter et al., 2019). Therefore, educational policy change is critical to the success of rural students in Illinois, one of 10 states nationwide identified as most urgently in need of these changes (Showalter et al., 2019). The failure of the state to address the issue systematically will continue to decrease opportunities for social mobility, leading to detrimental impacts on rural communities and rural students.

References

Gaines, L. V. (2018, June 21). What will it take to fix Illinois' teacher shortage? Illinois Public Media.

Mugglestone, K., Dancy, K., & Voight, M. (2019) Opportunity lost: Net price and equity at public flagship institutions. Institute for Higher Education Policy.

Partnership for College Completion (2019) Priced out: Rural students.

Showalter, D., Hartman, S. L., Johnson, J., & Klein, B. (2019). Why rural matters 2018-2019: The time is now. The Rural School and Community Trust.

Vance, A. (2019, September 12). Class of 2023 sets records for enrollment, diversity, excellence. Illinois News Bureau.

Source: https://occrl.illinois.edu/our-products/voices-and-viewpoints-detail/current-topics/2019/11/11/rurality-race-and-college-access-in-illinois


Continue reading
32 Hits

New Reports Analyze Who Pays When Higher Ed Funding Falls

November 8, 2019

PETER MEDLIN - WCBU Peoria Public Radio

State disinvestment in higher education has put a college degree out of reach for many Illinois students. That's a key finding from a new series of reports from the Partnership for College Completion.

The "Priced Out" reports focus on the three groups most impacted by funding lapses: Black, Latinx and students who live in rural communities.

The organization says state funding for public universities has fallen 50% since 2002. Community colleges have experienced similar disinvestments.

But it's not just about disinvestment. It's also about how and where funding is given out. "We have to fund our institutions differently," says Kyle Westbrook, Executive Director of the Partnership for College Completion.

The reports propose funding changes to incentivize public universities and community colleges to recruit underrepresented students.

It also recommends scaling back merit-based programs in place of scholarships that are more based on student needs.

"What we end up doing often with our merit-based programs is we end up sort of making the rich richer," he said.

Westbrook says some students don't see some of the state's public universities as equally affordable or representative of the state's overall demographics. He says that's troubling.

"There are all of these hidden costs of college that go far beyond tuition fees and go far beyond room and board that can either enrich the experience for students, or can make the experience not as impactful as it could be, or than it is for certain groups of students who could afford those opportunities," he said.

Westbrook says they were dismayed to find black students disproportionately take on loans and debt to fund their education.

For rural students, the report finds access is the biggest hurdle, especially when populations continue to trend down in those communities.

Source: https://www.peoriapublicradio.org/post/new-reports-analyze-who-pays-when-higher-ed-funding-falls#stream/0

Continue reading
31 Hits

Rural Students in Illinois Shoulder More Student Debt Than Their Peers

Diverse_Rural_image

November 5, 2019

SARA WEISSMAN - Diverse: Issues in Higher Education

Rural students in Illinois take on more debt to attend college than their peers, preventing them from returning and contributing to their rural communities, a new report found.

The study is part of a series of three reports by the Partnership for College Completion, a higher education advocacy organization in Illinois. The series examines how different groups of students are impacted by the state's dwindling investment in higher education, after state funding for public universities dropped 50% from 2002 to 2018 in Illinois. The first two reports focused on Black and Latinx students.

The goal is to shift the focus from institutions to students in discussions about state disinvestment.

"Over the past couple of years, we've spent a fair amount of time navel gazing and tongue gnashing about the state of higher education in Illinois," said Kyle Westbrook, founding executive director of the Partnership for College Completion. "What we thought was important in these series of reports is to begin to reframe this conversation about disinvestment in higher education in Illinois around its impact on students."

The report on Illinois' rural students found that they have limited access to colleges and universities, partly because they need to travel farther than their peers. The state has 62 private colleges but only 25 of them are located outside the Chicago metropolitan area with only seven of them serving areas with limited college access. According to the report, rural students travel over 100 miles to get to a private college versus students from cities and suburbs, who travel about 30 miles.

Meanwhile, there's a divide between rural students who can afford to leave for college and those who can't, the report found.

Rural households tend to have lower incomes but more financial stability in terms of wealth and assets. But the rural students who go to college are still incurring more student loan debt than their peers. The average cost of tuition for low-income students at a public university in Illinois is $12,800 per year, which is steep compared to other states. Surveyed students from rural areas in Illinois who attended public four-year universities owed about $10,500 in debt while urban and suburban students owed $1,300 less on average.

This may be impacted by the types of institutions they attend. Rural students are more likely to attend high-cost for-profit colleges, the report found. They're also more likely to attend community colleges, where applicants for the Monetary Award Program, Illinois' financial aid, are more than four times more likely to be denied.

Given the distance between rural areas and most Illinois campuses, many rural students in Illinois also partake in online programs, which often cost as much if not more than other programs at public universities and private nonprofit colleges, according to a survey cited in the report.

The study also looks at the compounded access and affordability challenges for rural students of color. While Black students had similar completion rates in urban and rural areas, Latinx students from rural areas were less likely to earn a degree than their urban or suburban peers.

Because of financial strain, research shows rural students are less likely to return to their communities post-graduation. The report cites a national survey which found that 73% of rural students with the highest loan debt move to cities, compared to just 37% of rural students with the least loan debt. Because graduates in rural areas earn lower incomes, student loan debt incentivizes them to move to cities, according to the report.

"Unintentionally, this disinvestment makes it harder for rural students to return to rural areas, which can actually speed up population loss in those areas," said Partnership for College Completion Policy Analyst Michael Abrahamson, the report's author. National studies show "if we can get more rural students with degrees to go back to those rural areas it can actually spur more economic development."

The Partnership for College Completion chose to focus on rural students in part because of an "unstated but just beneath the surface sentiment" among Illinois lawmakers that college affordability is just a Chicago problem, Westbrook said. He stressed that this issue should matter to lawmakers with rural constituents too.

"Race is certainly a part of this, Black and Brown students in particular," he said. "But it cuts across racial lines to affect rural students. When it comes time for voting for state appropriations, we can't set this up as a Democrat versus Republican, downstate versus Chicago area battle, because the impacts are felt across the state."

The report concludes with a number of policy recommendations: upping the state's investment in the Monetary Award Program, increasing funding for colleges that serve high numbers of underrepresented students, limiting or abolishing merit-based aid, offering completion grants and eliminating the Monetary Award Program at for-profit colleges.

The recommendations "chart a vision for the future" and offer ideas for "targeted reinvestment," Abrahamson said. "The bottom line is that there's no substitute for reinvestment in the state."

Source: https://diverseeducation.com/article/158952/


Continue reading
38 Hits

Underrepresented Students at Illinois Institutions Impacted by Budget Cuts

November 1, 2019

Equal Opportunity Today/The Buzz from  - Diverse: Issues In Higher Education

A recent period of higher education cutbacks in Illinois has created affordability and equity gaps for underrepresented students.

That's according to new reports by the Partnership of College Completion (PCC). The reports note that from 2002 to 2018, funding for Illinois public universities was cut over 50 percent and community colleges saw a similar disinvestment. This caused many institutions to increase the cost of tuition to make up for the loss.

"When you cut education, you don't cut the costs, you just shift the costs from the state to institutions, then from the institutions to students," said Michael Abrahamson, policy analyst at PCC. "So, it disproportionality hurts students who have the least ability to pay and institutions that have the smallest financial market. It affects Black and Latinx students in Illinois in different ways but all to some degree because of how those costs are being shifted to students."

Michael Abrahamson

In order to analyze the state-wide underfunding impact on Black and Latinx students, PCC recently released two reports as part of a three-part series. The findings were organized based on major themes including access, cost and the ability to pay.

"We rarely talk about the impact on students and we rarely talk about the ways in which the state of Illinois really retreating from it's historic investment in higher education has impacted the life trajectories of hundreds of thousands of students over the last 15 years," said Kyle P. Westbrook, founding executive director at PCC.

In the study, Priced Out: Black Students On Illinois' Disinvestment In Higher Education and What Can Be Done About It, researchers reveal that in 2017, 11,100 fewer Black students attended Illinois' public and private nonprofit colleges compared to 2007, regardless of the similar numbers of high school graduates.

Westbrook said that some of the enrollment decline was caused by the recession. It was expected that once the recession ended, enrollment would be equivalent to where it was pre-recession, if not more. However, that was not the case.

"That was really shocking and should be a cause for alarm," he added.

Only four of the 12 public universities and four of the 62 private nonprofit colleges in Illinois have a Black student population that is representative of the state's population, according to the report.

In terms of financial inequity gaps, the median Illinois Black household earns $33,500 compared to $62,000 for White households and is three times more likely to have an annual income below the federal poverty line. Additionally, the rate of debt is higher as 38 percent of Black graduates owed more than $15,000 in loans, compared to 23 percent of White graduates, the report also found.

PCC's most recent study, Priced Out: Latinx Students On Illinois' Disinvestment In Higher Education and What Can Be Done About It, showed similar gaps.

Latinx community college students have a completion rate of 25 percent, compared to 37 percent for White community college students. At four-year public universities, Latinx students graduate at a rate of 41 percent, compared to 55 percent for White students. National research shows that Latinx student borrowers are 61 percent more likely to default on student loans than White students, according to PCC's report.

Although Illinois saw an 81 percent increase of Latinx high school graduates as well as college enrollment double from 2007 to 2017, the rate of earning four-year degrees did not share the same growth. This is due to low transfer and completion rates. Additionally, in terms of tuition cost, Latinx families pay 39 percent of their income to attend public universities and 49 percent for private universities, compared to White families who pay 31 percent and 35 percent, the report found.

Kyle Westbrook

In general, in order to address these equity issues, institutions need to focus on remedial courses and developmental education to ensure that Illinois is giving students the "best possible chance to succeed," according to Westbrook.

At the state level, Illinois needs to reinvest in its institutions. Both reports advocated and recommended an equity-driven funding formula for higher education, meaning the institutions who serve the highest percentage of low-income or underrepresented students should receive a "higher appropriation than public institutions that are not serving representative portions of student populations in terms of race and socioeconomic status," said Westbrook.

Within the next week, PCC will release the last report titled Priced Out: Rural Students which focuses on the divide between those who can afford to leave their hometown for four-year degrees from public and private institutions and those that stay in the area to earn two-year degrees.

"Higher costs means they incur more debt and higher debt means that these students can less afford to move back to their hometown," said Abrahamson. "There's a lot of national research that says a lot of rural students do want to move back and raise families in the places they are from but with large amounts of student debt, because they stand to make more in cities, it's a less tenable proposition which is both inequitable and bad for the state."

In order to see results within the state's higher education system, the reports should be shared with both institutions and policy makers, said Abrahamson.

"I hope [these reports] will be a good launching pad for conversations on these topics," he said. "I think we have to have these conversations with the public and that this is about investment, it's about the future of our state and equity."

Sarah Wood can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Source: https://diverseeducation.com/article/158576/

Continue reading
31 Hits

Reports: Underrepresented Students at Illinois Institutions Impacted by Budget Cuts

Untitled-design

October 30, 2019

 - Diverse: Issues In Higher Education

A recent period of higher education cutbacks in Illinois has created affordability and equity gaps for underrepresented students.

That's according to new reports by the Partnership of College Completion (PCC). The reports note that from 2002 to 2018, funding for Illinois public universities was cut over 50 percent and community colleges saw a similar disinvestment. This caused many institutions to increase the cost of tuition to make up for the loss.

"When you cut education, you don't cut the costs, you just shift the costs from the state to institutions, then from the institutions to students," said Michael Abrahamson, policy analyst at PCC. "So, it disproportionality hurts students who have the least ability to pay and institutions that have the smallest financial market. It affects Black and Latinx students in Illinois in different ways but all to some degree because of how those costs are being shifted to students."

Michael Abrahamson

In order to analyze the state-wide underfunding impact on Black and Latinx students, PCC recently released two reports as part of a three-part series. The findings were organized based on major themes including access, cost and the ability to pay.

"We rarely talk about the impact on students and we rarely talk about the ways in which the state of Illinois really retreating from it's historic investment in higher education has impacted the life trajectories of hundreds of thousands of students over the last 15 years," said Kyle P. Westbrook, founding executive director at PCC.

In the study, Priced Out: Black Students On Illinois' Disinvestment In Higher Education and What Can Be Done About It, researchers reveal that in 2017, 11,100 fewer Black students attended Illinois' public and private nonprofit colleges compared to 2007, regardless of the similar numbers of high school graduates.

Westbrook said that some of the enrollment decline was caused by the recession. It was expected that once the recession ended, enrollment would be equivalent to where it was pre-recession, if not more. However, that was not the case.

"That was really shocking and should be a cause for alarm," he added.

Only four of the 12 public universities and four of the 62 private nonprofit colleges in Illinois have a Black student population that is representative of the state's population, according to the report.

In terms of financial inequity gaps, the median Illinois Black household earns $33,500 compared to $62,000 for White households and is three times more likely to have an annual income below the federal poverty line. Additionally, the rate of debt is higher as 38 percent of Black graduates owed more than $15,000 in loans, compared to 23 percent of White graduates, the report also found.

PCC's most recent study, Priced Out: Latinx Students On Illinois' Disinvestment In Higher Education and What Can Be Done About It, showed similar gaps.

Latinx community college students have a completion rate of 25 percent, compared to 37 percent for White community college students. At four-year public universities, Latinx students graduate at a rate of 41 percent, compared to 55 percent for White students. National research shows that Latinx student borrowers are 61 percent more likely to default on student loans than White students, according to PCC's report.

Although Illinois saw an 81 percent increase of Latinx high school graduates as well as college enrollment double from 2007 to 2017, the rate of earning four-year degrees did not share the same growth. This is due to low transfer and completion rates. Additionally, in terms of tuition cost, Latinx families pay 39 percent of their income to attend public universities and 49 percent for private universities, compared to White families who pay 31 percent and 35 percent, the report found.

Kyle Westbrook

In general, in order to address these equity issues, institutions need to focus on remedial courses and developmental education to ensure that Illinois is giving students the "best possible chance to succeed," according to Westbrook.

At the state level, Illinois needs to reinvest in its institutions. Both reports advocated and recommended an equity-driven funding formula for higher education, meaning the institutions who serve the highest percentage of low-income or underrepresented students should receive a "higher appropriation than public institutions that are not serving representative portions of student populations in terms of race and socioeconomic status," said Westbrook.

Within the next week, PCC will release the last report titled Priced Out: Rural Students which focuses on the divide between those who can afford to leave their hometown for four-year degrees from public and private institutions and those that stay in the area to earn two-year degrees.

"Higher costs means they incur more debt and higher debt means that these students can less afford to move back to their hometown," said Abrahamson. "There's a lot of national research that says a lot of rural students do want to move back and raise families in the places they are from but with large amounts of student debt, because they stand to make more in cities, it's a less tenable proposition which is both inequitable and bad for the state."

In order to see results within the state's higher education system, the reports should be shared with both institutions and policy makers, said Abrahamson.

"I hope [these reports] will be a good launching pad for conversations on these topics," he said. "I think we have to have these conversations with the public and that this is about investment, it's about the future of our state and equity."

Sarah Wood can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Source: https://diverseeducation.com/article/158576/

Continue reading
31 Hits

Black college students in Illinois get the short end of the financial stick

Hechinger_social_avatar

https://hechingerreport.org/black-college-students-in-illinois-get-the-short-end-of-the-financial-stick/

OCT 25, 2019
DELECE SMITH-BARROW - The Hechinger Report

Illinois is spending more on higher ed overall but less on financial aid, as pension plans gobble funding

by

October 25, 2019

Editor's note: This story led off this week's Higher Education newsletter, which is delivered free to subscribers' inboxes every Thursday.

Illinois is in a league of its own when it comes to state spending on higher education. It spent 32 percent more per full-time equivalent student, after adjusting for inflation, in 2018 than it did in 2008 – far more than any other state, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. This spending is particularly noteworthy because 40 states spent less on higher education in 2018 than they did before the Great Recession.

Many would think the more money a state has, the more it can spend on postsecondary education. Meeting the financial needs of low-income students, for example, should be easier. But Illinois students who are the most disadvantaged – typically those from low-income households or underrepresented minority groups – are not being adequately served, according to data from the Partnership for College Completion, a regional group that works to help more students complete college in the Chicago area. Their newly released report, "Priced Out: Black Students," shows that black students in Illinois colleges and universities are getting the short end of the stick financially.

Black families in Illinois spend 44 percent of their income, on average, to attend public institutions, while white families spend 31 percent, the report states. For private colleges and universities, black families on average spend 51 percent of their income but white families spend 35 percent.

When black students leave college in Illinois, it's often with higher debt than their white peers, too. About 38 percent of black graduates owed more than $15,000 while just 23 percent of white students owed this much.

The state's overall investment in higher education has increased in recent years, but Illinois has failed to allot enough money for student aid, said Kyle Westbrook, executive director for the Partnership for College Completion.

"Tuition is going up at the time that the state's need-based aid has remained flat," he said.

Since 2002, he said, the state has appropriated fewer and fewer dollars toward the Monetary Award Program, a need-based grant for low-income Illinois students. That year, every student who was eligible for MAP received aid. Now, "about 43 percent of the students who were eligible don't even receive awards," Westbrook said.

With less state aid available, black students are being left behind.

The students in the state who are least able to pay, who are disproportionately black, are either not attending college at all, taking out loans or going to for-profit schools that don't provide the same value, Westbrook said.

"In 2018, 46 percent of total state funding for higher education went to Illinois' pension system."

Sophia Laderman, senior policy analyst, State Higher Education Executive Officers Association

There are "11,000 fewer African-American students in our higher education system in 2017 than there were in 2007," he said.

So where is all that higher education money going? To pension funds.

"In 2018, 46 percent of total state funding for higher education went to Illinois' pension system," said Sophia Laderman, a senior policy analyst at the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, a national professional organization. Back in 2008, Illinois spent just 13.6 of its total higher education funding on pensions, the association reported.

The state is making up for years of disinvestment into its higher education system's pension funds, said Andy Carlson, vice president of finance policy and member services at the association.

"There's only so much money to go around," Carlson said. "A choice has been made because they're constitutionally obligated to fund the pension program."

The pot of money for higher education needs to get bigger, Westbrook said, but the state must also prioritize equity when delivering its appropriations.

There is hope, however, that more students will soon receive MAP, which currently has a maximum award of $5,340. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced this month that he plans to increase the funding for MAP by 50 percent over the next five years.

"We want to make sure that as the state is reinvesting in our public institutions that we're reinvesting in a way that is smart, targeted and equitable," Carlson said.

This story about higher education funding in Illinois was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter.

The Hechinger Report is a national nonprofit newsroom that reports on one topic: education. Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get stories like this delivered directly to your inbox.


Continue reading
54 Hits

Op-Ed: Remedial Courses a Black Hole for College Resources, Aspirations - More institutions should offer first-year students for-credit courses and other alternatives.

Crains

October 24, 2019

KYLE WESTBROOK - Crain's Chicago Business

Lurking beneath the good news on annual gains in college-going rates for black and Latinx students from Chicago is a literal black hole that likely will be the place where college and career aspirations go to die: developmental or remedial education.

Every year in Illinois, tens of thousands of students will be placed into remedial courses, mostly in math and English. Once they are placed into these developmental education courses, students rarely get out. In 2016, less than 1 in 5 students who began their college careers in developmental education courses earned a degree.

In early 2019, the Partnership for College Completion released a policy brief on remediation in Illinois, reviewing publicly available data and urging a significant overhaul of the measures used to judge "college readiness," which place nearly 46 percent of all students enrolling in community college into remedial coursework. We also called for reforming the structure of remedial courses that serve few students well.

A broken remedial education system serves few students well but disproportionately underserves black and Latinx students.

In 2016, among students attending community college, 62 percent of Latinx and 71 percent of black students were placed in remediation, compared to 41 percent of white students. Larger societal inequities that result in disparate life outcomes for black and Latinx populations contribute to these inequities, but research shows that high-stakes tests like those often used for college placement exacerbate those inequities and calcify them into a student's career outcomes.

Traditionally, students placed in developmental education must successfully complete a non-credit-bearing course—which often costs as much as a credit-bearing course—before they can enroll in their gateway courses. Only four years ago, some students at one community college in Chicago had to pass up to four levels of remediation or four prerequisite courses before they could enter a college English course.

These courses consume precious financial aid dollars like Illinois Monetary Award Program funds, which every year run out before all eligible students receive an award. Last year, nearly 100,000 Illinois students were turned away for a MAP grant because the funds were depleted.

Fortunately, these types of barriers are increasingly becoming relics of the past as more institutions and state legislatures look for alternatives to fix this broken system.

States such as California and Texas have prioritized co-requisite models for remediation. In co-requisite models, students who may need remediation enroll in their credit-bearing courses while being concurrently enrolled in a course or lab that provides them with additional support. A recent report on the outcomes of California reforms shows a significant increase in black and Latinx students passing gateway courses in both math and English.

There also are signs of progress in Illinois.

In 2018, the chief academic officers and presidents of the state's community colleges adopted a recommendation that colleges use alternative placement measures to high-stakes tests, such as cumulative high school GPA, since tests like SAT and ACT have been found to be more closely correlated to a student's family income than to their likelihood of succeeding in college.

Similarly, our state's high schools are increasingly offering developmental math and English. More Illinois institutions need to follow the lead of Harper College in Palatine and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, which have successfully implemented co-requisite remediation.

Illinois leaves a lot of talent on the table when too few students succeed in college, not because of a lack of will or skill, but because the systems that are meant to serve them fail them.

Kyle Westbrook is executive director of Partnership for College Completion, a nonprofit, and has more than 20 years of experience as a teacher and administrator in public education.

Source:  https://www.chicagobusiness.com/forum-ideas-public-schools/remedial-courses-black-hole-college-resources-aspirations 

Continue reading
13 Hits

Wealthy parents reportedly giving up custody of kids to get need-based financial aid

58128_wls_abc7chicago-blue-img

https://abc7chicago.com/education/suburban-parents-reportedly-giving-up-custody-of-kids-to-get-financial-aid/5430078/

JUL 31, 2019
- ABC 7 Chicago; KGO-TV

CHICAGO -- Wealthy suburban parents in the Chicago area are using a legal loophole in order to get their children more need-based financial aid, according to a report by ProPublica Illinois.

The report discovered dozens or more cases where parents hired lawyers to petition the court to turn over guardianship to a friend or relative so the student could be declared financially independent and qualify for financial aid.

ProPublica Illinois reporter Jody Cohen said she sifted through 1,800 probate petitions from 2018 and 2019, but more than 40 guardianship petitions stood out to her.

They were formal petitions filed by lawyers on behalf of well-to-do parents who were, for example, doctors and real estate agents in suburbs like Buffalo Grove and Deerfield, giving up custody of their kids during their junior or senior year of high school.

In response, the Department of Education is suggesting changes be made to close the loop hole.

It's adding language that says if a student enters into a legal guardianship, but continues to receive financial and medical support from their parents, they are still a dependent student.

While the practice of doing this is a loophole, it is not illegal. But it sparks an ethical problem if financial aid is limited and takes away from a potential student with a real need.

Kyle Westbrook leads the Partnership for College Completion, an advocacy organization for improving college outcomes for low income students.

"We think of it as hundreds of thousands of dollars that should have gone to low-income students and likely the difference between some students going to college and not going," said Westbrook.

Last year, more than 80,000 students who were eligible didn't get the aid because the money ran out.

For low income students that could mean the decision not to go to college.

VIDEO: Wealthy parents reportedly giving up custody of kids to get need-based financial aid

Wealthy suburban parents in the Chicago area are using a legal loophole in order to get their children more need-based financial aid, according to a report by ProPublica Illinois.

Continue reading
231 Hits

Suburban parents reportedly giving up custody of kids to get need-based financial aid

header_chicago

https://chicagocrusader.com/suburban-parents-reportedly-giving-up-custody-of-kids-to-get-need-based-financial-aid/

JUL 31, 2019
- ABC 7 Chicago as appears in Chicago Crusader

Wealthy suburban parents in the Chicago area are using a legal loophole in order to get their children more need-based financial aid, according to a report by ProPublica Illinois.

The report discovered dozens or more cases where parents hired lawyers to petition the court to turn over guardianship to a friend or relative so the student could be declared financially independent and qualify for financial aid.

ProPublica Illinois reporter Jody Cohen said she sifted through 1,800 probate petitions from 2018 and 2019, but more than 40 guardianship petitions stood out to her.

They were formal petitions filed by lawyers on behalf of well-to-do parents who were, for example, doctors and real estate agents in suburbs like Buffalo Grove and Deerfield, giving up custody of their kids during their junior or senior year of high school.

In response, the Department of Education is suggesting changes be made to close the loop hole.

It's adding language that says if a student enters into a legal guardianship, but continues to receive financial and medical support from their parents, they are still a dependent student.

While the practice of doing this is a loophole, it is not illegal. But it sparks an ethical problem if financial aid is limited and takes away from a potential student with a real need.

Kyle Westbrook leads the Partnership for College Completion, an advocacy organization for improving college outcomes for low income students.

"We think of it as hundreds of thousands of dollars that should have gone to low-income students and likely the difference between some students going to college and not going," said Westbrook.

Last year, more than 80,000 students who were eligible didn't get the aid because the money ran out.

For low income students that could mean the decision not to go to college.


Continue reading
204 Hits

Suburban parents reportedly giving up custody of kids to get need-based financial aid

58128_wls_abc7chicago-blue-img

https://abc7chicago.com/education/suburban-parents-reportedly-giving-up-custody-of-kids-to-get-financial-aid/5430078/

JUL 30, 2019
- ABC 7 Chicago; WLS-TV

Wealthy suburban parents in the Chicago area are using a legal loophole in order to get their children more need-based financial aid, according to a report by ProPublica Illinois.

The report discovered dozens or more cases where parents hired lawyers to petition the court to turn over guardianship to a friend or relative so the student could be declared financially independent and qualify for financial aid.


ProPublica Illinois reporter Jody Cohen said she sifted through 1,800 probate petitions from 2018 and 2019, but more than 40 guardianship petitions stood out to her.

They were formal petitions filed by lawyers on behalf of well-to-do parents who were, for example, doctors and real estate agents in suburbs like Buffalo Grove and Deerfield, giving up custody of their kids during their junior or senior year of high school. 

In response, the Department of Education is suggesting changes be made to close the loop hole.

It's adding language that says if a student enters into a legal guardianship, but continues to receive financial and medical support from their parents, they are still a dependent student.

While the practice of doing this is a loophole, it is not illegal. But it sparks an ethical problem if financial aid is limited and takes away from a potential student with a real need.

Kyle Westbrook leads the Partnership for College Completion, an advocacy organization for improving college outcomes for low income students.

"We think of it as hundreds of thousands of dollars that should have gone to low-income students and likely the difference between some students going to college and not going," said Westbrook.

Last year, more than 80,000 students who were eligible didn't get the aid because the money ran out.

For low income students that could mean the decision not to go to college.

...

Why Wealthy Parents Are Giving Up Custody of Their Kids - YouTube

Wealthy suburban parents in the Chicago area are using a legal loophole in order to get their children more need-based financial aid, according to a report b...

Continue reading
203 Hits

Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning Economic Development Committees met March 25

chicitywire

https://chicagocitywire.com/stories/512777979-chicago-metropolitan-agency-for-planning-economic-development-committees-met-march-25#

JUL 22, 2019​
- Chicago City Wire

None of the Chicago-area four-year public universities, as of 2016, has been able to graduate more than half of their Black and Latinx students.

The Partnership for College Completion shared this and other findings in a report released Thursday based on a regional study of college enrollment and graduation rates for slow-income and minority students in and around Chicago.

The seven-county Chicago area is home to 54 schools – including public, private, non-profit two- and four- year institutions – which enroll 319,000 undergraduates.

"One of our goals as an organization and in our work is, number one, lifting up data, research and information to really highlight the college completion crisis in the state of Illinois, and that reflects a broader college-completion crisis across the country," said Lisa Castillo Richmond, the managing director of the Partnership for College Completion. "We want to drive action."

While many reports explore national trends in college enrollment and completion, this report is unique in its local focus, analyzing data county by county.

"We're really interested in hyper-localizing issues of reform," said Kyle Westbrook, the executive director of Partnership for College Completion. "We do feel really strongly that most of the changes that we need to see happen will happen at the state and local level, where folks are closer to the issues, closer to the solutions and closer to our students."

Based on data from financial-aid applicants in the region, among other sources, the study found that a large number of students from the Chicago area are leaving the state for college, or debating whether to attend college at all because of affordability concerns.

Out of 70,000 local applicants who apply each year, only 2,600 students of color graduated in the Chicago area in 2017. While White applicants complete college within six years at a rate of 68 percent, low-income Black and FAFSA filers have six-year completion rates at 30 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

Westbrook said state legislators are concerned about enrollment. Applications at public universities in the Chicago area increased by only half the rate of the national average between 2011 and 2016.

But they've been so focused on addressing out-migration – students leaving the Chicago area for college – that they've ignored local students struggling to afford Chicago schools. FAFSA filers with the least financial need were three times more likely to leave the state for college. White students were the most likely to leave the state for college, while Latinx students were least likely.

"There's a pool of students and a pool of talent in this state that aren't just going out of state for college," Westbrook said. "They're not going to attend at all. We're leaving a lot of talent on the table because of the state's slow and steady disinvestment in higher education."

The report describes a lack of funding for Monetary Award Program grants, the state's financial aid system for low-income students. The study found that nearly 60,000 eligible students apply for these awards and don't receive them because there isn't enough aid to go around. Grants also cover fewer costs.

The program used to fully cover a student's attendance costs. Now, it covers only two-thirds of the cost of attendance at community colleges and one-third of the cost at public universities.

The report recommends a series of policy changes at the college and state level based on the study's findings. It encourages institutions to weigh GPAs more heavily than standardized test scores in admissions, since prioritizing scores puts low-income students and students of color with less test preparation resources at a disadvantage.

The study found that 58 percent of African-American financial aid applicants and 41 percent of Latino students scored in the lowest ACT category. The report calls on the state to fully fund all eligible MAP applicants and direct funds away from for-profits, which account for 34 percent of student loan debt while serving only 8 percent of Illinois' college students.

To push some of its policy goals forward, the Partnership for College Completion started the Illinois Equity in Attainment initiative, a coalition of 27 Chicago-area higher learning institutions that have committed to create equity plans with the organization's help. The group meets twice a year to discuss shared problems and work on setting benchmarks.

Richmond finds the initiative a reason for hope.

"They're taking a deep look internally at how they're organized and who they're supporting and how," she said.

At the state level, there have been promising changes, as well. This year, the state allocated another $50 million to MAP grants, praised in the report as a step in the right direction.

"We are optimistic but we also don't think it's time to take the goal posts down and pat ourselves on the back," Westbrook said. "We're at the very beginning of what we hope will be a long-term investment in resources and attention to the equity issues that our state faces."

Sara Weissman can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Continue reading
195 Hits

New Report Finds Stark Inequity in Chicago Higher Education

Diverse--Issues-In-Higher-Education

https://diverseeducation.com/article/150055/

JUL 18, 2019​
- Diverse: Issues In Higher Education

None of the Chicago-area four-year public universities, as of 2016, has been able to graduate more than half of their Black and Latinx students.

The Partnership for College Completion shared this and other findings in a report released Thursday based on a regional study of college enrollment and graduation rates for slow-income and minority students in and around Chicago.

The seven-county Chicago area is home to 54 schools – including public, private, non-profit two- and four- year institutions – which enroll 319,000 undergraduates.

"One of our goals as an organization and in our work is, number one, lifting up data, research and information to really highlight the college completion crisis in the state of Illinois, and that reflects a broader college-completion crisis across the country," said Lisa Castillo Richmond, the managing director of the Partnership for College Completion. "We want to drive action."

While many reports explore national trends in college enrollment and completion, this report is unique in its local focus, analyzing data county by county.

"We're really interested in hyper-localizing issues of reform," said Kyle Westbrook, the executive director of Partnership for College Completion. "We do feel really strongly that most of the changes that we need to see happen will happen at the state and local level, where folks are closer to the issues, closer to the solutions and closer to our students."

Based on data from financial-aid applicants in the region, among other sources, the study found that a large number of students from the Chicago area are leaving the state for college, or debating whether to attend college at all because of affordability concerns.

Out of 70,000 local applicants who apply each year, only 2,600 students of color graduated in the Chicago area in 2017. While White applicants complete college within six years at a rate of 68 percent, low-income Black and FAFSA filers have six-year completion rates at 30 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

Westbrook said state legislators are concerned about enrollment. Applications at public universities in the Chicago area increased by only half the rate of the national average between 2011 and 2016.

But they've been so focused on addressing out-migration – students leaving the Chicago area for college – that they've ignored local students struggling to afford Chicago schools. FAFSA filers with the least financial need were three times more likely to leave the state for college. White students were the most likely to leave the state for college, while Latinx students were least likely.

"There's a pool of students and a pool of talent in this state that aren't just going out of state for college," Westbrook said. "They're not going to attend at all. We're leaving a lot of talent on the table because of the state's slow and steady disinvestment in higher education."

The report describes a lack of funding for Monetary Award Program grants, the state's financial aid system for low-income students. The study found that nearly 60,000 eligible students apply for these awards and don't receive them because there isn't enough aid to go around. Grants also cover fewer costs.

The program used to fully cover a student's attendance costs. Now, it covers only two-thirds of the cost of attendance at community colleges and one-third of the cost at public universities.

The report recommends a series of policy changes at the college and state level based on the study's findings. It encourages institutions to weigh GPAs more heavily than standardized test scores in admissions, since prioritizing scores puts low-income students and students of color with less test preparation resources at a disadvantage.

The study found that 58 percent of African-American financial aid applicants and 41 percent of Latino students scored in the lowest ACT category. The report calls on the state to fully fund all eligible MAP applicants and direct funds away from for-profits, which account for 34 percent of student loan debt while serving only 8 percent of Illinois' college students.

To push some of its policy goals forward, the Partnership for College Completion started the Illinois Equity in Attainment initiative, a coalition of 27 Chicago-area higher learning institutions that have committed to create equity plans with the organization's help. The group meets twice a year to discuss shared problems and work on setting benchmarks.

Richmond finds the initiative a reason for hope.

"They're taking a deep look internally at how they're organized and who they're supporting and how," she said.

At the state level, there have been promising changes, as well. This year, the state allocated another $50 million to MAP grants, praised in the report as a step in the right direction.

"We are optimistic but we also don't think it's time to take the goal posts down and pat ourselves on the back," Westbrook said. "We're at the very beginning of what we hope will be a long-term investment in resources and attention to the equity issues that our state faces."

Sara Weissman can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Continue reading
221 Hits

Access and Affordability Limiting Equitable College Enrollment, Achievement in Chicago Region

lawndale-news-logo

http://www.lawndalenews.com/2019/07/access-and-affordability-limiting-equitable-college-enrollment-achievement-in-chicago-region/

JUL 18, 2019​
Ashmar Mandou - Lawndale News

College enrollment and completion in the Chicago area is being limited by access and cost issues tied to race, family wealth and income, and the availability of financial aid, according to a new report released today by the Partnership for College Completion (PCC). The report, College-Going and Completion in the Chicago Area: A Regional Analysis, breaks ground in examining enrollment, attainment, and completion in the seven-county metropolitan Chicago area, using a number of sources including a unique regional analysis of data from financial aid applicants. The report finds that despite a diverse pool of more than 70,000 college-going applicants from this region every year, more than 40 percent of whom are Black or Latino, the local four-year public universities together produced only 2,600 degrees for students of color in 2017. PCC urges administrators, educators and policymakers to prioritize higher education access and affordability with a concentration on equity to ensure the future prosperity of the region and state.

College-Going and Completion in the Chicago Area focuses on the students from and attending college in the Midwest's hub of economic opportunity, where two decades of state disinvestment in students and institutions has affected the seven-county region's 54 public and private nonprofit two- and four-year colleges and the 319,000 undergraduate students they enroll. As a result, the report finds high prices for four-year colleges and declining numbers of students attending college in the region or deciding not to pursue higher education at all, together underscoring the challenge of wide access to high-quality postsecondary opportunities. The report proposes bold equity-focused policy ideas that include: revising college admissions standards to increase the weight of GPA over ACT/SAT test scores, which disadvantage low-income students and students of color; restoring full funding of the Monetary Award Program (MAP), which provides grants to low-income students and now covers only two-thirds of the cost of attendance at community colleges and one-third of the cost at public universities for less than half of eligible students; and, stopping the flow of state aid to for-profit colleges.


Continue reading
273 Hits

Report Highlights Higher Ed Inequity In Chicagoland

WNIJ_89.5NEWS_logo

https://www.northernpublicradio.org/post/report-highlights-higher-ed-inequity-chicagoland

JUL 17, 2019​
PETER MEDLIN - WNIU News

Even with Chicagoland students in the same income range, white students have a much greater chance of getting a degree than students of color.

That's according to a new report from the non-profit Partnership for College Completion. The group just released a report highlighting college access and success disparities in northern Illinois.

It finds gaps exist regardless of academics and have more to do with race and family income levels.

More than 70,000 college-goers applied for financial aid in the region in 2017. More than 40% were black or Latino. But in that year, students of color received fewer than 3,000 degrees at local public four-year universities.

The report recommends institutional changes at schools like remedial education and advising reforms, and also policies like increases in need-based financial aid -- especially because of the first-come first-served nature of MAP grants.

"This absolutely has a disproportionate impact on students who are the first in their family to go to college, of course, low-income students, and students who are attending high schools that aren't as well equipped to make sure that students know how to complete FAFSA and know that they have to complete it very early," said Lisa Castillo Richmond, Managing Director of the PCC.

According to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, over 100,000 Illinois students every year who are eligible for MAP funding receive nothing.

The report also talks about Illinois' issues with students leaving the state for college.

"We are also concerned about the students that are applying for financial aid and applying to college and then at the time of matriculation or are not showing up at any institution, whether it's inside or outside of the state," said Castillo Richmond. "And we think of this as the more acute challenge for the state."

Among FAFSA-filing students, white students are the most likely to leave while Latino students are by far the least likely to leave the state.



Continue reading
194 Hits

NIU primed to tackle racial and economic inequities in graduation rates

NIU-Logo

https://www.niutoday.info/2019/04/24/%EF%BB%BFniu-primed-to-tackle-racial-and-economic-inequities-in-graduation-rates/

APR 24, 2019
- NIU Today (Print​)

Identifying equity as a top priority, NIU aims to close graduation gaps for students of color, first-generation college-goers and low-income students.

University leaders, including NIU President Lisa Freeman, recently joined representatives from 25 community colleges and universities throughout northern Illinois as part of the Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative led by the Partnership for College Completion. The group met at NIU's Naperville campus.

They came together to share information and brainstorm ways to address achievement gaps prevalent in Illinois and throughout the country.

Working to create a campus-wide ILEA Equity plan, NIU is primed to tackle the issue, say those involved.

Closing the gap requires an institutional effort, said NIU Senior Associate Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Vernese Edghill-Walden, Ph.D., as opposed to the creation of a single program.

"You can have all the strategies in the world, but if you never change your institutional culture those strategies will fail," she said. "We have to change our culture. I think we're moving in that direction, but we have a lot more to do."

Evaluating graduation equity rates even before joining the initiative, NIU has made strides the past four years, leaders say.

NIU's Strategic Enrollment Management Plan spells out the university's commitment to be a leader in the area of equitable access for students from diverse backgrounds. Among the plan's many objectives is to clearly identify gaps and create comprehensive plans to reduce them.

Working with fellow educators can only enhance that effort, NIU leaders say.

"The conference confirmed for me we have all of the ingredients to achieve at that level and to get our institution to where we need to go," said Renique Kersh, Ph.D., associate vice provost for Student Engagement and Success.

According to a 2017 Partnership for College Completion report, 33 percent of African American students who start at four-year institutions earn bachelor's degrees within six years—a rate 32.7 percentage points below that of their white peers. For Latinos, 49 percent are earning degrees, a gap of 17 percentage points. Only 37 percent of low-income students graduate in six years compared to 75 percent of wealthier students.

The ILEA Initiative calls for 60% of Illinois residents to achieve earned degrees by 2025.

NIU was among the only institution at the recent summit with members of its Board of Trustees in attendance.

"It spoke to the commitment not only of our president, who was asked to speak, but also our trustees committed to this project," Kersh said.

A first-generation college student and the daughter of Mexican immigrants, NIU Trustee Veronica Herrero of Chicago spoke at the event about the critical need for all trustees to understand what equity in higher education means and how it impacts the long-term sustainability of institutions.

Herrero told the crowd President Freeman has weaved equity and inclusion work into every aspect of the university.

"Addressing equity gaps, student success outcomes of our black and brown students, and improving inclusive practices and cultural competence in and out of the classroom are all board level, presidential goals that we help President Freeman to champion," she said.

As part of efforts to create an ILEA Equity Plan and assess its strengths and areas in need of improvement, NIU recently sent out an Institutional Capacity Assessment Tool survey to faculty, staff and administrators. Of the 25 institutions in the ILEA, NIU received the largest survey response, with about 300 respondents, Edghill-Walden said.

Coming soon, the survey results identified a need for a clear definition of what equity means at NIU, as well as increased communication of the work being done to close graduation gaps, Edghill-Walden said. Similar to the way in which NIU recently updated its mission, the plan is to engage the university community to create that definition, she said. 


Continue reading
263 Hits

Knowles: GSU diversity chief targets graduation rates

Knowles: GSU diversity chief targets graduation rates

https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/opinion/ct-sta-knowles-column-st-0423-story.html

APR 22, 2019
- Chicago Tribune (DAILY SOUTHTOWN​)

As a Brooklyn College student in the 1980s, concerns about racial unrest and inequities prompted Corey Williams, who is black, to join a fraternity that was predominantly white.

He said his goal was to help dismantle stereotypes and foster understanding at the New York City school.

Today, Williams said he is continuing a similar mission. Williams, who since developed mentoring programs targeting minority first-generation students at several colleges, was recently named the chief diversity officer at Governors State University in University Park, a first for the school.

"Rather than being on the sidelines viewing equity issues, we thought why not tackle equity issues within our own institution and be a model for other institutions across the state," said Williams, 48, who also serves as GSU's associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students.

He said he wants to decrease achievement gaps for first generation students of color, particularly black and Latino students at GSU, where among its 4,857 students 38.4 percent are African-American and 13 percent are Hispanic or Latino.

"We are working with a group of 25 colleges and universities across the state through a partnership, Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative," he said. "It is an initiative through the Partnership for College Completion. It is 25 colleges and universities across the state that have the focus of decreasing those achievement gaps over the next five years."

Among the students targeted in the effort are African-Americans, Latinos, students receiving Pell grants, first-generation students and students with disabilities, he said.

He noted in 2014-15, retention from junior year to senior year for junior African-American transfer students at GSU was 67% compared to all transfer students at 72%.

"We aim to increase retention for all students, but also aim to close this gap by 2020," he said. "We have reduced the equity gap for the retention of African-American transfer students from 5.1 percentage points in 2014-2015 to 3.7 percentage points in 2016-2017."

Among factors contributing to achievement gaps are unique challenges some students face, he said.

It's important to understand "that some of our students come from traumatic experiences and how trauma bleeds into their education," he said. "By trauma, I mean (hunger), housing insecurities, dealing with violence at home, single-parent households, gang violence, those issues bleed into what tends to happen when they enter (college)."

He added first-generation students who make up roughly 42% of GSU undergraduates, also face unique challenges, including that they and their parents often don't know how to navigate the higher education system and perform such tasks as completing financial aid applications and advocating for themselves.

"These are things we have to teach," he said.

How should disparity issues be addressed?

"Having support systems in place to support students is absolutely key," Williams said. "There are (federal) program grants for low-income, first-generation or students with disabilities to help. We are planning to submit for five grants through that process. I think each would bring in about $220,000 per year for five years."

The grants would fund support mechanisms for the students, including increased advising, peer coaching and wrap-around services to aid in their college completion, Williams said.

"Each grant would support 100 to 150 students," he added. "We would focus on students with disabilities, traditional students, veteran students, students looking to go into education and students pursuing STEM careers or the health career field."

Williams said he also plans to conduct "a climate survey to get a sense of what's going on at GSU, how students feel, how faculty and staff feel, perhaps having listening circles with them to find out issues that are very important to them that need to be addressed right away."

Williams, who has a master's degree in higher education from Chicago State University, has nearly two decades of experience working in leadership and administration in higher education positions, including at Triton College in River Grove, where he served as dean of student services and Title IX coordinator. There he founded and implemented Triton Men Pursuing Higher Education, a multifaceted mentoring program that aided in the recruitment, retention and graduation of minority males, he said.

"We worked with minority men, primarily African-American and Latino men," he said. "We provided wrap-around services. Each male was paired with a mentor at the institution or an alumni. They would meet one to two times a month and collectively as a group once a week, and the young men served as mentors to middle and high school students to create a pipeline because for many of our first-generation students, particularly men of color, they lack that role model. So, it's important for them to see people who look like them doing things they aspire to do.

"With the first . . . 25 students, all graduated in a two-year period," he said, noting, "at some community colleges, the graduation rate for men of color is about 7 percent. The fact that we were able to do what we did was astounding. The model is being discussed at different conferences around the country."

The program expanded to Elgin Community College and Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, he said. He added at Triton, a similar women of color mentoring program also was developed, and he is looking to bring that to GSU.

Asked what lessons about diversity he wants GSU graduates to take with them into their careers and life, he replied, "GSU is reflective of our society, the makeup of the institution. It's about respecting everyone's beliefs, their background, their ideologies. That's very important to me. It's important for students as a whole to know how to navigate the nuances they're going to face once they leave GSU."

Communication is key to fostering a culture of respect and understanding, he said. Williams, who at age 9 emigrated from Panama to New York with his mother, has long held that belief.

That's what prompted him to join Zeta Beta Tau, a predominantly Jewish and white fraternity while he attended Brooklyn College. His decision to do so followed the high-profile death in 1986 in New York of Michael Griffith, a 23-year-old New York City resident, who died after being struck by a car as he fled a mob of angry white teens. That experience and other racial tensions had a profound effect on Williams, who recalled racial tensions were high in the city and at the college.

"For me it was difficult to understand why something as simple as the color of a person's skin would create barriers from getting people to truly know one another," he said. "It was something I couldn't get. As a child in central and south America, what I saw as an issue was more classism as opposed to racism, so this was very vexing to me, something I wanted to understand better, to create conversations to bring about understanding."

So, he decided to join Zeta Beta Tau, he said. Chapter members spent time with his family and in his home, and he spent time with theirs. He later became chapter president, he said.

"I learned a lot about the Jewish faith, and I was able to dismantle some preconceived notions that people may have had about black men," he said.

In order to dismantle stereotypes and foster and maintain a culture of respect at GSU, it's important to have "honest conversations, courageous conversations and safe conversations, to not hold things back but discuss things in a productive way, to create that safe space for people to seek understanding," he said.


Continue reading
278 Hits

College Student Success Gaps Persist. How Can Schools Close Them?

College Student Success Gaps Persist. How Can Schools Close Them?

https://www.northernpublicradio.org/post/college-student-success-gaps-persist-how-can-schools-close-them

April 17, 2019

PETER MEDLIN - WNIU News

This past week, leaders from community colleges and universities across northern Illinois met to brainstorm how to close college completion gaps based on race and income level.

Over 20 schools joined with the Partnership for College Completion (PCC) to launch the "Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative" last year. The schools share what works for them, and the PCC helps them orchestrate a plan unique to their schools and give them more information about the reality of the equity issue.

Lisa Castillo-Richmond is the Partnership's managing director. She says the gaps in Illinois mostly mirror those seen across the country. However, there are aspects of the issue where Illinois stands out.

"We are a significant outlier, I would say in terms of the gap between white students completing college degrees and African American students," she said. "In six years from a four-year institution, white students will graduate at a rate of 66 percent while African American students are graduating and about half that rate at 33 percent. And these gaps also exist across other races and ethnicities."

Organizers say it was essential for their initiative to be made up of a diverse group of schools -- two and four-year; big and small, public and private -- in order to show how gaps persisted everywhere.

"We really wanted to move away from the fallacy that says if you just get students into the right institution, everyone is graduating at these equitable and high rates, because we saw these gaps across all types of institutions," said Castillo-Richmond.

They all faced the same problem. For some, the disparity was six or eight percent. For others, it could exceed 10 or even 20 percent.

And why did they want to meet now? Across the state, in aggregate, the gaps weren't getting better and in some cases, they were widening.

The event was held at Northern Illinois University's Naperville campus. Lisa Freeman is the president of NIU.

"What we're saying is, it's really the responsibility of the university to meet the students that we accept where they are," Freeman said, "and to recognize that sometimes when a student doesn't succeed, it's not on them, it's actually on us, on the systems we've created that are serving our students poorly."

She says NIU was looking at their graduation equity rate even before they joined the initiative. But it's been easier to start acting on it since the end of the budget impasse.

"They weren't data that we were proud of," Freeman said. "We wanted to erase the gap that achieved for students who come from lower-income families, and for students of color. And we knew that to do that we needed to make a radical change."

For NIU, that's meant making sure students have support during their financial aid process, and raising awareness for academic resources. They've also seen through their PROMISE Scholars Program, how research can help connect students -- especially students of color -- to their campus and increase their odds of retention.

Confronting and analyzing equity data has been a key part of the plan at Wilbur-Wright College. They're a two-year school and one of the City Colleges of Chicago. David Potash is the president.

He said their plan has been in effect for a few years now. They've been deciphering where student success gaps are happening, so they can home in on the sources of the problem.

"That means that you got to look at the data all the time because you make one change and then there are consequences, some positive, some negative, you make another change," said Potash.

Wilbur-Wright's population is two-thirds Hispanic. One improvement area they found was with Hispanic female biology students. They saw those students were dropping out close to when they should have been finishing their programs. To help fix that, they assigned students farther along in the program to peer mentor students with less experience.

"And with a little bit of peer mentoring what we found, not a ton of work, the number of Latino females in the biology sequence increased when they were falling through at a relatively low billable rate," Potash said. "I mean, this is not rocket science, but it's looking at the data, finding people who are motivated together and care, and then you make a change."

Schools are also using technology to close the completion gap. The keynote speaker at the NIU-Naperville event was Tim Renick of Georgia State University. He spoke about his school's success with using an chatbot to answer common questions from incoming freshmen, anything from FAFSA to housing.

"We had students repeatedly tell us they asked the chat box questions they wouldn't have asked a human being," said Renick. "If you can't get your biological father to sign the FAFSA because you haven't seen him for the last two years, you don't necessarily want to go into some stranger's office and spill out your personal family history."

NIU President Freeman also has plans to implement a similar chatbot while they continue to teach their faculty and staff how to have conversations about equity.

"Nobody wants to inadvertently send a student the message that maybe this isn't for you," she said. "But people need to learn when they do those kinds of things unconsciously."

Aside from the individual school plans, the PCC is promoting policies at the state level to alleviate some of the pressure.

Currently, they're focusing on policies to overhaul the way higher education handles remedial courses, to get students college-ready.

Castillo-Richmond says with so many schools buying into the initiative there's still plenty colleges can do, even without extra aid coming from Springfield.



Continue reading
457 Hits

Sign-up to receive our communications

Connect with us on social media