College Affordability for Students in Illinois

On Illinois’ Disinvestment In Higher Education & What Can Be Done About It

For nearly two decades, Illinois has gone through a period of disinvestment in higher education, seeing continued losses in higher education appropriations and underinvestment to student financial aid, effectively shifting the burden to pay onto students.

This study has three companion reports: Priced Out: Black StudentsPriced Out: Latinx Students; and Priced Out: Rural Students. The reports provide insight into how disparities in access, cost, and ability to pay are creating barriers for Illinois students across the state and recommends policy action to start reversing these trends.

For nearly two decades, Illinois has gone through a period of disinvestment in higher education, seeing continued losses in higher education appropriations and underinvestment to student financial aid, effectively shifting the burden to pay onto students.

This study has three companion reports: Priced Out: Black Students, Priced Out: Latinx Students, Priced Out: Rural Students. The reports provide insight into how disparities in access, cost, and ability to pay are creating unique barriers for Illinois students across the state and recommends policy actions to start reversing these trends.

Reports

Priced Out: Black Students

Priced Out: Black Students

On Illinois’ Disinvestment In Higher Education & What Can Be Done About It

Read Report

Priced Out: Latinx Students

Priced Out: Latinx Students

On Illinois’ Disinvestment In Higher Education & What Can Be Done About It

Read Report

Priced Out: Rural Students

Priced Out: Rural Students

On Illinois’ Disinvestment In Higher Education & What Can Be Done About It

Read Report

A Brief History of College Affordability

As appropriations fall, tuition and fees rise at Illinois public institutions

MAP shortfalls are leaving about 100,000 eligible students without aid annually

Sources: Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) data on MAP suspensions and appropriations and tuition and fees data from the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE)

Vision for the Future

Our vision for higher education is the inverse of what Illinois has experienced over the last two decades. With equitable reinvestment in Illinois and its students and by advancing policy that eliminates barriers and maximizes opportunity, enrollments and graduation rates will rise, providing Illinois’ workforce with more qualified graduates every year. Students will graduate at greater rates and with less debt Black and Latinx students will be better able to access economic opportunities and build wealth, and rural students will be able to stay in their communities if they wish, boosting the economy of these areas. 

Finally, institutions will pull out of enrollment spirals, regaining their standing and further drawing in students with out-of-state options. Illinois will realize the full potential for equity in degree completion by increasing investments in higher education and by implementing policies that improve access to collegedecrease the cost of a degree, and improve degree payoff for Black, Latinx, and rural students. 

Improving Access

The first step in restoring higher education’s potential for socioeconomic mobility is to fix the issues that are causing a college education to be inaccessible to many of Illinois’ Black, Latinx, and rural students. While there is no silver bullet, with clear accountability and incentives for serving a student body representative of the demographics of the state, and increased funding for the institutions currently serving our Black and Latinx students, there will be progress. Improving access will also require targeted recruitment of low-income students, increased need-based financial aid, and comprehensive developmental education reform. Together, this suite of reforms has the potential to drive up enrollment and completion rates for all student groups.

Decreasing the Cost of a Degree

To improve college affordability for all of Illinois’ students, the state must offer a comprehensive solution that addresses the rising costs of college, inconsistent and decreased purchasing power of MAP grants, and all barriers to transfer and/or graduation.

Fixing the Pension Crisis

It is beyond the scope of this report to propose solutions to the pension crisis, beyond pointing to solutions that minimize the competition of funds allocated among pensions, institutions, and students.[17] However, the pension issue must be resolved for Illinois to offer affordable, equitable, high-quality education at a reasonable price to taxpayers. In the meantime, it must further invest in its students and institutions to pull them out of a quality, cost, and enrollment downward spiral.

Increasing Students’ Ability to Pay

The greatest gaps in college affordability for low-income students and students of color are in the ability to pay for college. Though wealth disparities are not easily fixed, state policy can lower the effects of these gaps by increasing equity in its financial aid programs.

Improving Degree Payoff Through Loan Forgiveness

Debt forgiveness programs are at the center of several 2020 presidential campaigns, and for good reason, as student loan debt in the U.S. is the highest it has ever been. Largely as a result of racial wealth disparities, Black students carry a disproportionate amount of debt, are more likely to default than White students, and there are large debt disparities for both non-completers and graduates.[24] While the current loan forgiveness proposals are varied, analyses of the most promising programs agree that targeted debt relief must account for wealth in addition to income. A comprehensive student debt forgiveness plan focused on equity and that considers family wealth has the potential to significantly improve the wealth of Black, Latinx, and low-income families, provide a boost to the national economy, and lead to a more equitable payoff of a college degree for Black Illinoisans.

Realizing Our Vision Through State Policy

To realize the vision of an equitable higher education system that drives economic mobility, and to meet the state’s degree attainment goal of 60% by 2025, state leaders must intentionally and strategically align goals, policies, and actions to meet that end. Through an inclusive process, state leaders should set equity-centered goals and strategic plans designed to make institutions and the system more accessible and affordable for low-income students and students of color. State legislators should support the goals of the state and articulate their commitment to students through bold investments in higher education and by establishing policies that, like those described above, improve access to collegedecrease the cost of a degree, and  improve degree payoff for Black, Latinx, and rural students. The future prosperity of our state depends on leaders taking urgent, equity-centered action.

References

1.    Perna, Laura, Joni Finney, and Patrick Callan. “A Story of Decline: Performance and Policy in Illinois Higher Education.” Institute for Research on Higher Education, n.d.
2.    The Illinois Board of Higher Education. “Fiscal Year 2020 Higher Education Budget Recommendations,” December 4, 2018.
3.    Ibid.
4.    Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. “Illinois’ Significant Disinvestment in Higher Education.” The Budget Blog, January 30, 2017. Illinois cut per-student higher education funding by 54%, with Arizona being the only large state with greater cuts.
5.    “Examining the Relationship between State Appropriation Support and Tuition and Fees at Illinois Public Universities.” Illinois Board of Higher Education. Accessed August 8, 2019.
6.    The Illinois Board of Higher Education, “Fiscal Year 2020 Higher Education Budget Recommendations.”
7.    The Illinois Board of Higher Education. “Fiscal Year 2019 Governor’s Higher Education Budget Operations, Grants, And Capital Improvements,” April 13, 2018. 
8.    Rhodes, Dawn. “How Much Money Are Illinois Colleges Getting in the New Budget? ‘It’s Definitely Good News for Colleges and Universities.’’.’” Chicago Tribune, June 19, 2019.
9.    College Board. “Trends in College Pricing: Tables & Figures.” Research, May 31, 2019.
10.    The Illinois Board of Higher Education, “Fiscal Year 2020 Higher Education Budget Recommendations.”

11.    Ibid.
12.    “Basic ISAC Program Data.” Illinois Student Assistance Commission, December 2018.
13.    Thapedi, André. Higher Ed - Uniform Admission, Pub. L. No. HB0026 (2018).
14.    Hancock, Peter. “Illinois Proposal for Uniform College Admissions Standards Ignites Controversy.” The Pantagraph, February 8, 2019.
15.    Freeman, Matt. “Defending Idaho’s Direct Admissions Program.” Inside Higher Ed, October 15, 2018.
16.    United States Department of Education, “Community College Student Outcomes: 1994-2009,” 2011. 19.6% in Illinois compared to 14.7% nationally
17.    Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. “Addressing Illinois’ Pension Debt Crisis With Reamortization.” Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, May 21, 2018.
18.    Miller, “How You Can See Your College’s Long-Term Default Rate.”
19.    Scott-Clayton, Judith. “The Looming Student Loan Default Crisis Is Worse than We Thought.” Brookings (blog), January 11, 2018.
20.    Analysis of data provided by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC)
21.    Carnevale, Anthony P., Nicole Smith, and Jeff Strohl. “Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020.” CEW Georgetown (blog), June 27, 2013.
22.    Ibid.
23.    “AIM HIGH Grant Pilot Program.” Illinois Student Assistance Commission. Accessed September 18, 2019
24.    Mishory, Jen, Mark Huelsman, and Suzanee Kahn. “How Student Debt and the Racial Wealth Gap Reinforce Each Other.” The Century Foundation, September 9, 2019.

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