• 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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College Diploma Out-of-Reach For Growing Number Of Low-Income Illinois Students

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| WBEZ |     

A new report finds rising cost of Illinois colleges and lack of aid is making enrollment and graduation harder for low-income students. 

The report also finds that Illinois was one of just four states that cut funding for higher education over the last two years, a year-to-year difference of 68 percent. The cuts took place during the state's protracted budget impasse. In addition, about half of the students eligible for need-based state MAP grants didn't receive the financial award because of insufficient funding.

Susie An
September 26, 2017

Aileen Ramirez, a fourth-year student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, plans to graduate next fall and possibly go on to get her master's degree in social work. But UIC wasn't Ramirez's first — or even second — choice.

After cobbling together scholarships and other aid, it was the best school she could afford.

"My parents always told me, 'Try to have good grades so you can get some scholarships. That way you don't struggle, and we don't struggle, trying to pay for school,'" Ramirez said.

Ramirez said her parents couldn't help her pay for school. Her father works at a suburban warehouse and her mother isn't working now. Her parents also care for two younger siblings. Ramirez also lives at home to cut down on expenses.

Despite her challenges, Ramirez considers herself one of the lucky ones. With her patchwork of scholarships, she's managed to make it to college and is approaching graduation. But for many other low-income students in Illinois, a college diploma is increasingly out of reach, according to a new reported released Tuesday by the Partnership for College Completion, or PCC.

The Chicago-based organization found that while middle-class families in Illinois need to set aside a quarter of their total income for a student to attend a four-year institution, low-income families need to set aside 63 percent, according to data from 2014.

PCC also reported that Illinois ranked fifth highest in the country for in-state tuition and fees during fiscal year 2016 as part of its review of public data and published studies on higher education in Illinois.

Kyle Westbrook, founding executive director of PCC, said those costs are contributing to lagging graduation rates among low-income students and students of color, even within the more affordable community college system. Though that graduation gap isn't unique to Illinois, the state has faced greater hurdles as its proportion of low-income students has grown.

"About 50 percent of our state's elementary and high school students are low income, and that brings with them some significant challenges as well as lack of resources when they are able to move into higher education," Westbrook said.

The report also found that Illinois was one of just four states that cut funding for higher education over the last two years, a year-to-year difference of 68 percent. The cuts took place during the state's protracted budget impasse. In addition, about half of the students eligible for need-based state MAP grants didn't receive the financial award because of insufficient funding. And even if all eligible students received the grant money in 2016, the PCC report found that the average in-state tuition and fee rate increasingly outpaced the maximum MAP awards.

This year looks better for higher education in Illinois. Following the resolution of the budget impasse this summer, lawmakers set aside about $1.1 billion dollars for public universities for this year, about the same amount they received over the last two years. This year's budget also increases funding for MAP grants by 10 percent.

Still, PCC said the state Legislature needs to do more to invest in higher education for low-income students to keep talent in state and to make up for lost ground. The study also found that Illinois has the second largest population of students going out of state for college.

Lisa Castillo Richmond, director of strategy at PCC, said states and institutions that set goals to close the disparity gap have made progress.

"They're really focusing on increasing attainment overall, eliminating achievement gaps, racial achievement gaps and socioeconomic achievement gaps. And that's where they're seeing movement," Castillo Richmond said.

Illinois aims to increase the proportion of adult residents with a post-secondary degree or career credential to 60 percent by 2025. So far, the state is lagging behind that goal. As of 2015, some 50 percent had a college or career credential, according to PCC.

Susie An is a WBEZ reporter.

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Degrees out-of-reach for many low-income Illinois students

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| WBEZ-FM / KWQC |     

The Partnership for College Completion reports data from 2014 show low-income families in Illinois must set aside 63 percent of their total income for a student to attend a four-year institution.

Executive Director Kyle Westbrook tells WBEZ-FM the high costs are contributing to lagging graduation rates among low-income students and students of color, even within the more affordable community college system.

CHICAGO (AP) – Illinois' in-state college tuition and fees rank fifth highest in the U.S., and a new report says those costs are a major reason degrees are increasingly out-of-reach for low-income students.

The Partnership for College Completion reports data from 2014 show low-income families in Illinois must set aside 63 percent of their total income for a student to attend a four-year institution. Middle-class families must set aside 25 percent.

Executive Director Kyle Westbrook tells WBEZ-FM the high costs are contributing to lagging graduation rates among low-income students and students of color, even within the more affordable community college system.

This year looks better for higher education in Illinois as lawmakers allocated about $1.1 billion dollars for public universities following the budget impasse's resolution.

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College degrees are out-of-reach for many low-income Illinois students

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 | SaukValley.com |     

About half of students eligible for need-based tuition help through Illinois' Monetary Award Program, or MAP, didn't' receive it because of insufficient state funding.

This year looks better for higher education in Illinois as lawmakers allocated about $1.1 billion for public universities following the budget impasse's resolution. The state also increased funding for MAP grants by 10 percent.

CHICAGO (AP) – Illinois' in-state college tuition and fees ranked fifth highest in the U.S. last year, and a new report says those costs are a major reason that degrees are increasingly out-of-reach for low-income students.

Data from 2014 show low-income families in Illinois must set aside 63 percent of their total income for a student to attend a 4-year institution, according to a report from The Partnership for College Completion. Middle-class families must set aside 25 percent, the study found.

Executive Director Kyle Westbrook told WBEZ-FM the high costs contribute to lagging graduation rates among low-income students and students of color, even within the more affordable community college system. He said the graduation gap isn't unique to Illinois but that the state has faced greater challenges as its proportion of low-income students has grown.

"About 50 percent of our state's elementary and high school students are low income, and that brings with them some significant challenges as well as lack of resources when they are able to move into higher education," Westbrook said.

The report also found that Illinois was one of four states that cut higher education funding over the past 2 years, a year-to-year difference of 68 percent. Those cuts took place during the state's budget impasse.

About half of students eligible for need-based tuition help through Illinois' Monetary Award Program, or MAP, didn't' receive it because of insufficient state funding.

This year looks better for higher education in Illinois as lawmakers allocated about
$1.1 billion for public universities following the budget impasse's resolution. The state also increased funding for MAP grants by 10 percent.

The organization's director of strategy, Lisa Castillo Richmond, said states and institutions that set goals to close the disparity gap have made progress.

"They're really focusing on increasing attainment overall, eliminating achievement gaps, racial achievement gaps and socio-economic achievement gaps," Castillo Richmond said. "And that's where they're seeing movement."

Illinois set a goal to increase the percentage of adults with a career credential or post-secondary degree to 60 percent by 2025. The Partnership for College Completion says about 50 percent had a college or career credential as of 2015.

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Degrees out of reach for many low-income Illinois students

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 | The Times |         

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois' in-state college tuition and fees ranked fifth highest in the U.S. last year, and a new report says those costs are a major reason that degrees are increasingly out of reach for low-income students.

Data from 2014 show low-income families in Illinois must set aside 63 percent of their total income for a student to attend a four-year institution, according to a report from The Partnership for College Completion. Middle-class families must set aside 25 percent, the study found.

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois' in-state college tuition and fees ranked fifth highest in the U.S. last year, and a new report says those costs are a major reason that degrees are increasingly out of reach for low-income students.

Data from 2014 show low-income families in Illinois must set aside 63 percent of their total income for a student to attend a four-year institution, according to a report from The Partnership for College Completion. Middle-class families must set aside 25 percent, the study found.

Executive Director Kyle Westbrook told WBEZ-FM the high costs contribute to lagging graduation rates among low-income students and students of color, even within the more affordable community college system. He said the graduation gap isn't unique to Illinois but that the state has faced greater challenges as its proportion of low-income students has grown.

"About 50 percent of our state's elementary and high school students are low income, and that brings with them some significant challenges as well as lack of resources when they are able to move into higher education," Westbrook said.

The report also found that Illinois was one of four states that cut higher education funding over the last two years, a year-to-year difference of 68 percent. Those cuts took place during the state's budget impasse.

About half of students eligible for need-based tuition help through Illinois' Monetary Award Program, or MAP, didn't' receive it because of insufficient state funding.

This year looks better for higher education in Illinois as lawmakers allocated about $1.1 billion for public universities following the budget impasse's resolution. The state also increased funding for MAP grants by 10 percent.

The organization's director of strategy, Lisa Castillo Richmond, said states and institutions that set goals to close the disparity gap have made progress.

"They're really focusing on increasing attainment overall, eliminating achievement gaps, racial achievement gaps and socio-economic achievement gaps," Castillo Richmond said. "And that's where they're seeing movement."

Illinois set a goal to increase the percentage of adults with a career credential or post-secondary degree to 60 percent by 2025. The Partnership for College Completion says about 50 percent had a college or career credential as of 2015.

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Public Universities Increasingly Out of Reach for Illinois’ Low-income Students

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| The Chicago Reporter |     

A large percentage of these students are African American and Latino. For these students of color, Illinois' system of higher education reinforces racial inequality, prevents social mobility and widens the chasm between the haves and have-nots.

While a staggering number of high school graduates have been leaving the state to attend college elsewhere (Illinois ranks second to worst in the nation for net outward migration of college freshmen, according to 2014 data), many low-income students don't have that option.

Kyle Westbrook 
October 2, 2017

In 1991, I was admitted to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

My mother worked as a telephone operator and didn't have the money to pay the $3,000 in yearly tuition. But the cost wasn't a barrier for me, because I was considered a low-income student and qualified for financial aid.

After the grants and scholarships, I had to come up with just $186 – money I made by working summers as a van driver – and was deeply grateful that my college education was virtually free.

With my degree, I became a Chicago Public Schools teacher and lifelong educator, and I entered the middle class – in large part, because of those grants and scholarships.

But as I look around today in Illinois, I see that the path that allowed me to attend college is no longer open to other low-income students.

In 2017, a student with the same economic profile that I had as a teenager would owe about $13,000 per year. Put simply, a public university education in Illinois is no longer the on-ramp to the middle class.

A dizzying array of statistics illustrates this disturbing trend. Our public colleges and universities are meant to be engines of upward economic mobility, but too often are unable to lift up low-income and first-generation students. In fact, the chances of a low-income student actually graduating from college today are only marginally better than they were 30 years ago.

A large percentage of these students are African American and Latino. For these students of color, Illinois' system of higher education reinforces racial inequality, prevents social mobility and widens the chasm between the haves and have-nots.

While a staggering number of high school graduates have been leaving the state to attend college elsewhere (Illinois ranks second to worst in the nation for net outward migration of college freshmen, according to 2014 data), many low-income students don't have that option. Instead, a dismaying number are being pushed out of the system entirely and being denied pathways to college.

Consider these statistics from our new report that paints a picture of the crisis in Illinois higher education:

–Between 2011 and 2015, African American undergraduate enrollment in two-year and four-year public institutions dropped 25 percent.

–The cost of attending our public universities has risen dramatically over the years, with average in-state tuition and fees ranking as the fifth-highest in the nation in fiscal year 2016. Yet Illinois was one of just four states that actually cut funding for higher education over the last two fiscal years, by a whopping 68 percent.

–Those cuts left more than 160,000 low-income students–about half of all those eligible–without much-needed state tuition grants in 2016. The impact on students of color was significant, since more than half of black and Latino undergraduates at public universities rely on those grants from the state's Monetary Award Program.

Last week marked our launch of a series of round-tables with education leaders and stakeholders, to share the new report with its dismaying statistics, and to help move our state toward effective policy solutions.

Without such drastic action, Illinois will never reach the ambitious target set by leaders and policymakers: To have 60 percent of working adults hold a degree or credential by 2025.

There's real evidence of programs that work toward that goal. Colleges and universities across the country, and some progressive states, are making college more affordable by funding scholarships, offering free tuition, and streamlining transfers for students moving from community college to four-year colleges and universities. Students who attend a community college for their first two years can save substantially on overall college costs.

Governors State University, for example, offers a dual degree program and scholarship for qualifying students who are enrolled full-time at Chicagoland community colleges and who transfer to Governors State.

The City Colleges of Chicago STAR Scholarship Program, which provides free tuition to college-ready Chicago Public Schools students—many of them undocumented—has since forged a partnership with 20 area colleges and universities to streamline transfers and provide scholarships for transfer students.

And the College of Lake County Promise Program provides funding for college-ready low-income students living in the community college district who have unmet financial need.

We need more programs like these that marshal resources in a coordinated effort.

Most critically, however, Illinois must increase state investment in financial aid for low-income students, and in funding for higher education in general.

Making college affordable and removing unnecessary barriers to completion is essential to the economic, social and civic health of our state.

The time is now to develop a bold plan for higher education equity in Illinois. Nothing less than the livelihood and happiness of generations of Illinois residents depend on us getting this right.

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Illinois Makes Paying For College Harder for Low-Income Students, But We Can Fix That

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| Education Post |     

A dizzying array of statistics illustrates this disturbing trend. Our public colleges and universities are meant to be engines of upward economic mobility, but too often are unable to lift up low-income and first-generation students. In fact, the chances of a low-income student actually graduating from college today are only marginally better than they were 30 years ago.

A large percentage of these students are African-American and Latino. For these students of color, Illinois' system of higher education reinforces racial inequality, prevents social mobility and widens the chasm between the haves and have-nots.

In 1991, I was admitted to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

My mother worked as a telephone operator and didn't have the money to pay the $3,000 in yearly tuition. But the cost wasn't a barrier for me, because I was considered a low-income student and qualified for financial aid.

After the grants and scholarships, I had to come up with just $186—money I made by working summers as a van driver—and was deeply grateful that my college education was virtually free.

With my degree, I became a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teacher and lifelong educator, and I entered the middle class—in large part because of those grants and scholarships.

THE PATH THAT ALLOWED ME TO ATTEND COLLEGE IS NO LONGER OPEN TO OTHER LOW-INCOME STUDENTSBut as I look around today in Illinois, I see that the path that allowed me to attend college is no longer open to other low-income students.

THE DOOR IS CLOSING

In 2017, a student with the same economic profile that I had as a teenager would owe about $13,000 per year. Put simply, a public university education in Illinois is no longer the on-ramp to the middle class.

A dizzying array of statistics illustrates this disturbing trend. Our public colleges and universities are meant to be engines of upward economic mobility, but too often are unable to lift up low-income and first-generation students. In fact, the chances of a low-income student actually graduating from college today are only marginally better than they were 30 years ago.

A large percentage of these students are African-American and Latino. For these students of color, Illinois' system of higher education reinforces racial inequality, prevents social mobility and widens the chasm between the haves and have-nots.

While a staggering number of high school graduates have been leaving the state to attend college elsewhere (Illinois ranks second to worst in the nation for net outward migration of college freshmen, according to 2014 data), many low-income students don't have that option. Instead, a dismaying number are being pushed out of the system entirely and being denied pathways to college.

Consider these statistics from our new report that paints a picture of the crisis in Illinois higher education:

  • Between 2011 and 2015, African-American undergraduate enrollment in two-year and four-year public institutions dropped 25 percent.
  • The cost of attending our public universities has risen dramatically over the years, with average in-state tuition and fees ranking as the fifth-highest in the nation in fiscal year 2016. Yet Illinois was one of just four states that actually cut funding for higher education over the last two fiscal years, by a whopping 68 percent.
  • Those cuts left more than 160,000 low-income students—about half of all those eligible—without much-needed state tuition grants in 2016. The impact on students of color was significant, since more than half of Black and Latino undergraduates at public universities rely on those grants from the state's Monetary Award Program.
WE NEED MORE OF THIS

Last week marked our launch of a series of round-tables with education leaders and stakeholders, to share the new report with its dismaying statistics, and to help move our state toward effective policy solutions.

WITHOUT SUCH DRASTIC ACTION, ILLINOIS WILL NEVER REACH THE AMBITIOUS TARGET SET BY LEADERS AND POLICYMAKERSWithout such drastic action, Illinois will never reach the ambitious target set by leaders and policymakers: to have 60 percent of working adults hold a degree or credential by 2025.

There's real evidence of programs that work toward that goal. Colleges and universities across the country, and some progressive states, are making college more affordable by funding scholarships, offering free tuition and streamlining transfers for students moving from community college to four-year colleges and universities. Students who attend a community college for their first two years can save substantially on overall college costs.

Governors State University, for example, offers a dual-degree program and scholarship for qualifying students who are enrolled full time at Chicagoland community colleges and who transfer to Governors State.

The City Colleges of Chicago STAR Scholarship Program, which provides free tuition to college-ready CPS students—many of them undocumented–has since forged a partnership with 20 area colleges and universities to streamline transfers and provide scholarships for transfer students.

And the College of Lake County Promise Program provides funding for college-ready low-income students living in the community college district who have unmet financial need.

We need more programs like these that marshal resources in a coordinated effort.

Most critically, however, Illinois must increase state investment in financial aid for low-income students, and in funding for higher education in general.

Making college affordable and removing unnecessary barriers to completion is essential to the economic, social and civic health of our state.

The time is now to develop a bold plan for higher education equity in Illinois. Nothing less than the livelihood and happiness of generations of Illinois residents depend on us getting this right.

Continue reading
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