• 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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PCC’s Response to Governor Pritzker’s First Budget Address

Increasing MAP by $50 Million: A Good Start to Supporting Low-Income Students

Today, the Governor pledged an additional $50 million for the state's Monetary Award Program (MAP), bringing total funding to around $450 million. This recommendation falls short of the State's higher education agencies' (IBHE, ICCB, as well as ISAC) requested $100 million increase; however, if part of a multi-year ramp up to ensuring all eligible students receive a MAP award, the additional $50 million appropriation is a significant first step toward reinvesting in Illinois students for whom this support determines if they can attend college at all.

In 2002, MAP covered 100% of tuition and fees for all eligible applicants. Today, more than 100,000 eligible applicants are denied funding each year, and for those lucky enough to receive it, MAP covers just 33% of tuition and fees. For the future of Illinois' students, workforce, and diverse economy, our first priority must be for all eligible students to be served without cutting funding levels. We project that a 65% increase (or $260 million increase) in current funding would both fund all applicants at current levels and at least keep up with increasing applications for the program. This additional $50 million proposed in the Governor's address today will serve about 15,000 more students -- a commendable first step, but one which will likely still leave more than 80,000 eligible applicants without funds.The Governor ran on a platform of a 50% increase in MAP funding, and we hope today's proposed 12.5% increase is the first step towards delivering on to that promise.

While we do not expect the Governor to fully reverse 15 years of underfunding in his first fiscal year, we applaud Governor Pritzker's commitment to continue, if not accelerate, the pace of ramping up this investment in order to improve our State's higher education outcomes.

Public Universities Get A Much Needed 5% Increase

Illinois' four-year universities have endured historic disinvestment over the last ten years -- they saw per-student funding cut by more than 50% before the budget crisis, and then suffered through defunding and uncertainty that affected students, staff, and the system as a whole. As appropriations declined, tuition increased, as universities were left with no options but to shift costs to their students. Now, the net cost for students of all income levels is the highest in the Midwest, and among the highest in the nation, and this hits the lowest income students the hardest. A 5% increase in public universities' budgets is a necessary start in allowing institutions to better serve all of their students.

The Increase in AIM HIGH Should Be Qualified, Or Reconsidered

AIM HIGH, Illinois' new merit-based financial aid program, is an attempt to slow the outmigration of Illinois' high school graduates leaving to attend college in other states. As it currently stands, however, the only need-based qualification is that a student's family income is no greater than six times the national poverty guideline -- about $150,000 for a family of four. There are no further mandates to equitably distribute this grant funding to students, and without such requirements, increasing funding for this program may come at the detriment of qualified students who most need it. Today, Governor Pritzker proposed an increase in state appropriations to this program.

One of the stipulations of AIM HIGH is that colleges must match all grants to students with their own institutional aid. Without requiring that grants go to low-income students, and assuming that an institution does not increase their institutional aid greatly after receiving AIM HIGH (which would be difficult given the aforementioned funding shortfalls), this matching provision could actually draw institutional aid away from low-income students who need them to attend these universities and direct it to better-resourced students who may have chosen to attend that university anyway. With enrollment numbers in precipitous decline, now is not the time to expand a grant program that may result in even fewer Illinois' low-income students being able to afford our public universities.

A more equitable path to driving Illinois' students to attend our public universities is to redirect the $10,000,000 increase to the more than 3,200 eligible students who will apply for MAP and not receive any funds this year.

More Commendable Recommendations

Governor Pritzker recommended a much-needed 5% increase to the State's community colleges, which serve even more of our state's low-income students, first generation college goers, Black and Latino students. The budget plans released by the Governor also include new funding for transitional math, which will increase college preparedness and cut down on developmental education, and for the P-20 council, which is working toward increasing Illinois' important initiative to have 60% of adults attain high-quality degrees by 2025. All of these recommendations are commendable. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Contact:
Mike Abrahamson
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Emily Goldman
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Illinois House Passes Resolution to Close College Racial, Economic Achievement Gaps and Increase Graduation Rates

Partnership for College Completion-sponsored resolution highlights urgency to prepare all students for demands of Illinois workforce 

November 26, 2018, Chicago, IL—The Illinois House has committed the state to closing the large racial and economic achievement gaps in college degree attainment by 2025. In adopting the resolution (HR1017), the House is supporting the state's decision to add equity targets to the State's public goal of increasing the percentage of Illinoisans with a college degree or credential to 60 percent by 2025. Building on resolution SR1647 that the Senate adopted in May, House legislators pledged to support college and university programs that show evidence of improving educational outcomes for low-income and first generation college students and students of color.

The resolution comes amidst research from the Partnership highlighting persistent gaps in achievement and underscoring the moral and economic imperative to take action through awareness, programs, and policy.In Illinois, 80 percent of employees say they need workers with some postsecondary education. But, only 34 percent of African American students who start at four-year institutions earn bachelor's degrees within six years – a rate 33 percentage points below that of their White peers. For Latinos, 49 percent are earning degrees, a still-wide gap of 17 percentage points. The completion gap between low-income and wealthier students is alarming: only 37 percent of low-income students graduate in six years while 75 percent of wealthier students do.

"This resolution recognizes that in order to reverse racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps we need bicameral support for bold solutions," said Kyle Westbrook, Executive Director of the Partnership. "With the House and Senate now aligned on goals, we look forward to continuing our work with the state to increase equity in higher education."

The Partnership promotes policies, systems and practices that ensure all students particularly low-income and first generation students graduate from college and achieve their career aspirations. The Partnership's initial focus is on colleges and universities in the seven-county northeastern Illinois area. The recently-passed House resolution follows a Partnership initiative with 25 colleges and universities, who recently announced their commitment to closing the equity gaps on their campuses by 2025. The specific, coordinated steps led by PCC in collaboration with national partners, is a major move to close racial and socioeconomic college degree completion gaps.

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

Contact:
Emily Goldman
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ILEA 2018 Summit

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The PCC held our first Illinois Equity in Attainment (ILEA) Summit on November 13, bringing together leaders of 25 colleges and universities, national education experts, and students to discuss how programs can be developed, shared, and implemented to eliminate institutional achievement gaps in college degree completion for low-income, first generation, African-American and Latino students by 2025. More than 200 participants spent the day in workshops and breakout sessions discussing how to define equity, build community, explore how data can drive action, and set the path forward.

The Summit followed the ILEA launch on October 2, in which colleges representing 223,000 students, 37% of the Illinois undergraduate enrollment, pledged to eliminate longstanding institutional inequities in degree completion by race and income. The Partnership's initial primary area of focus is the seven-county region including and surrounding Chicago. The Summit represents a key piece of the Partnership's strategy: using our resources and convening power to support the ILEA institutions through sharing of data and best practices.

The tone of the day was set by US Sen. Dick Durbin, the first in his family to graduate from college, who went on to earn a law degree before becoming a US Senator. "What you are doing may be the most important thing for this country," he said. In other introductory remarks, City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Juan Salgado noted that every one of the seven colleges has "enthusiastically embraced" the ILEA initiative. He said that the quality of our success will depend on how far we can move students from where they began to realize their true potential.

Students from five ILEA institutions – Governors State, Malcolm X, National Louis, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Waubonsee Community College - reminded educators to acknowledge the challenges many students face, from college readiness to financial pressures to mental health concerns. They may also face racist or sexist remarks. The solutions: awareness, first, then having in place an array of support systems that ease the transition into and through college, together with the connections and networks to post-graduate career opportunities.

Throughout the Summit, participants examined personal experiences, assumptions, and biases – important steps to understand the hurdles that lie in front of students. But, to develop and apply policies and practices to close equity gaps at scale, the value of obtaining actionable data could not be understated. Participants in all sessions, and notably in a discussion facilitated by leaders from Achieving the Dream and the College of Lake County, spoke of gathering data that is descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and proscriptive. Data can be used, for example, by faculty to re-design courses or to create specific success strategies for each student that extend beyond college completion to securing sustainable employment.

Changing demographics in college enrollment and in the workplace make the work of the Partnership and ILEA especially timely. Said Lori Suddick, President of The College of Lake County: "There is an urgent need to address both the economic and moral imperative to this work. Joining the Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative supports CLC's focus on ensuring equity in access and success so every student completes."

The participation of the 25 colleges is a first in many regards. Each of the ILEA institutions will develop an equity plan that includes annual growth targets for low-income, first generation, African-American and Latino students. The Partnership will issue annual reports on progress toward these goals. The ILEA Summit marks one of the first steps, with colleges participating in a series of activities over the coming months, leading to draft equity plans by July and final plans in place by December 2019.

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AIM HIGH Shouldn’t be Need-Blind

The AIM HIGH grant pilot program, Illinois' new merit-based financial aid program, intends to slow the exodus of Illinois' high school graduates leaving to attend college in other states. The University of Alabama and the University of Nebraska, for example, like other universities in neighboring states, are offering Illinois students attractive merit-based financial aid packages that make leaving home for college an enticing option.

Due to Illinois' continued disinvestment in higher education, the two-year budget impasse, and declining enrollment in many of the state's four-year institutions, our state universities have had to rely more heavily on tuition increases to cover costs. Combined with the decreasing purchasing power of the need-based grant Monetary Award Program (MAP), Illinois colleges and universities have not been able to match the financial aid packages offered by out-of-state schools.

To incentivize Illinois' students to attend college in-state, the Higher Education Working Group, Illinois' first bipartisan, bicameral legislative working group focused on higher education, introduced Senate Bill 2927. The bill, signed by Governor Rauner in August 2018, created the AIM HIGH grant pilot program, a $25 million merit-based matching grant available to Illinois public four-year institutions. Each state university will be eligible to receive a pool of state funds in an amount determined by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) based on how many Illinois' residents the university enrolled in the previous academic year.

The legislature provided some guidelines for grant eligibility. At a minimum, to be eligible for an AIM HIGH award, students must be an Illinois resident, file a FAFSA, have a household income of no greater than six times the national poverty guideline—approximately $150,000 for a family of four, meet a minimum GPA or admissions test score as determined by the university campus, and enroll full-time. Each university campus can add additional "reasonable" eligibility criteria.

While this infusion of new money into our higher education system is commendable, as pointed out by Eric Jensen, President of Illinois Wesleyan University, in his recent op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, "The problem with allocating more merit-based aid when fighting an enrollment crisis is that merit-based scholarships favor students who can afford college anyway." Since MAP has not kept pace with tuition increases, over 50% of MAP-eligible students who otherwise might enroll in college do not receive a MAP award and those who do, often still have a significant gap between what aid covers and their true college costs. As a result, many MAP-eligible students may not be getting the financial support they need to attend college.

Fortunately, AIM HIGH gives universities one tool with which to address out-migration while being mindful of the affordability crisis Illinois' low-income students and families are facing throughout the state. Since the grant program gives institutions the discretion to determine how AIM HIGH funds will be allocated among all eligible students on their campus, universities have the opportunity to prioritize access for the neediest students first. In addition to delegating scholarship funds amongst a racially diverse range of students, institutions should allocate the largest awards to students with the lowest Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). By filling in where MAP awards are falling short, or are absent altogether, the AIM HIGH grant program can be leveraged to increase enrollment and persistence for our state's low-income students, whose alternative may be debt, or in the worst cases, nowhere at all.


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Returning Students to Receive Priority Access to MAP Grants

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

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

Here's what you need to know about HB5020:

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

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

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

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