IBHE Announces Members of New Strategic Planning Advisory Committee

radilink

January 13, 2021

By IBHE - My Radio Link

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Board of Higher Education is announcing the members of its Strategic Planning Advisory Committee, which will develop a draft plan to fulfill the board's which will lay out a set of strategies to achieve the board's vision and priorities. The plan aims to create an equitable, accessible and innovative higher education ecosystem across Illinois that ensures students and communities thrive.

"The members of the advisory committee bring expertise from education, business, policy, community, and philanthropic organizations to shape the blueprint for our students and our higher education ecosystem for the next 10 years," said IBHE Board Chair John Atkinson. "The members of the advisory committee will identify the highest-impact strategies to increase affordability, close equity gaps, and meet workforce needs. I am thrilled that this group has agreed to help us chart a course for higher education in Illinois."

The strategic plan is being crafted in cooperation with the Illinois Community College Board and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. It has garnered widespread public engagement so far, including the input from a survey of 10,000 people, 20 regional focus groups, and written comments. There will be room for more public engagement in each step of the process.

The committee will be co-chaired by:
Zaldwaynaka Scott, President, Chicago State University
Juan Salgado, Chancellor, City Colleges of Chicago
Illinois Senator Pat McGuire
Betsy Ziegler, CEO, 1871

"At each step in the process, we have invited input on how to ensure Illinois has an equitable, innovative and nimble higher education system. The advisory committee will help chart the path to get us there," explained IBHE Executive Director Ginger Ostro.

Co-Chair Zaldwaynaka Scott, president of Chicago State University, said, "I want to ensure that our higher education system makes the changes needed to alter the outcomes for students of color, because for too long they have been underserved. IBHE data will clearly tell us whether this new plan will make a difference."

"This new plan must address the importance of an aligned education system," said Co-Chair Juan Salgado, chancellor, City Colleges of Chicago. "Higher education needs to better serve the varied needs of our increasingly diverse, life-long learners, whether it be at two-year or four-year colleges and universities, public or private, or credential programs."

Co-Chair Sen. Pat McGuire, who chairs the Illinois Senate's Higher Education Committee, explained, "Illinois post-secondary students and institutions have demonstrated their commitment to education throughout the Great Recession, the two-year budget impasse, and the COVID-19 pandemic. It's time we acted with equal determination and laid plans for a higher education system that's fair to all students, all community colleges and universities, and all parts of the state."

Recognizing that the input and support of the business community is critical to this effort, 1871 CEO Betsy Ziegler will join the committee as a co-chair. "Employers know the nature of work is changing rapidly and that partnership with our higher education system is essential. Preparing students for jobs and civic life are critical to our companies and our economy, as is the innovation and research that come from a strong higher education system" she said. "We must work together to make sure we are investing in the needs of our collective future."

To stay up to date on IBHE's strategic planning process, visit the webpage.

The committee members are:
Darryl Arrington, DePaul University
Mara Botman, Circle of Service
Martha Burns, Oakton Community College
Tanya Cabera, University of Illinois Chicago
Brent Clark, Illinois Association of School Administrators
Jim Coleman, Accenture
Marlon Cummings, Governors State University, IBHE Faculty Advisory Committee
Mona Davenport, Illinois Committee on Black Concerns in Higher Education
Julia diLliberti, Illinois Community College Faculty Assoc.
Cherita Ellens, Women Employed
Lisa Freeman, Northern Illinois University
Sameer Gadkaree, The Joyce Foundation
Dave Hanson, EOA Consulting LLC
Lauren Harris, ISU, IBHE Student Advisory Committee
Pranav Kothari, IBHE Board
Jack Lavin, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
David Lett, Illinois State Board of Education Member
Daniel Lopez, Illinois Latino Council on Higher Education
Nivine Megahed, National Louis University
Paige Ponder, One Million Degrees
Teresa Ramos, Action for Children
Jim Reed, Illinois Community College Trustees Association
Jonah Rice, Southeastern Illinois College
Amanda Smith, Rock Valley Community College
Audrey Soglin, Illinois Education Association
Samiha Syed, College of DuPage, ICCB Student Advisory Committee
Jose Torres, Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy
Charlotte Warren, Lincoln Land Community College
Simón Weffer-Elizondo, Illinois Federation of Teachers
Kyle Westbrook, Partnership for College Completion


Source: https://www.myradiolink.com/2021/01/13/illinois-board-of-higher-education-announces-members-of-new-strategic-planning-advisory-committee/

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Higher education reform bill unveiled, aims for racial equity through scholarships, program reforms

Star Courier

January 11, 2021

by By Peter Hancock - Capitol News Illinois

Source: https://www.starcourier.com/story/news/2021/01/11/higher-education-reform-bill-unveiled-aims-racial-equity-through-scholarships-program-reforms/6627073002/

This report was also featured on WGLT News.

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A New Report Says Illinois Should Change How It Funds Higher-Ed

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December 2, 2020

by PETER MEDLIN - NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

A new report reflects on the long-term cost of cutting education funding during past recessions and how Illinois can learn from those mistakes during the COVID recession.

The Partnership for College Completion argues that recessions are a rare opportunity to make college access and cost more equitable.

Mike Abrahamson is the Partnership's policy manager. He believes the future of Illinois' economy depends on how Illinois devotes funding to education now, when dollars are scarce and there could be budget cuts for schools around the corner.

"It's crucial that we respond to this not by cutting across the board, if we do need to make cuts, but in a way that recognizes the institutions and the students that they serve."

The report calls for the state to adopt a funding formula for higher-ed -- similar to K-12's Evidence-Based Funding -- that prioritizes schools who rely more on state appropriations and often enroll a higher percent of low-income and students of color.

Up to 10% funding cuts could be on the horizon for higher-ed in Illinois. He said it's important to remember schools and students won't be hit equally.

"At some universities, it might mean increasing tuition by a few hundred dollars at others in order to make up that gap it would be over $1,000," he said. "And those students have far less ability to pay because our most financially vulnerable institutions also enroll our most financially vulnerable students."

That also means directing more money the Monetary Award Program or MAP need-based grants. Abrahamson says Illinois' FAFSA completion gap grew because of the pandemic -- with completion dropping 4% at lower-income high schools and increasing by nearly 5% at more affluent schools.

He said it's vital Illinois invest in education during the COVID-induced recession. The report states that disinvestment during previous economic downturns directly led to enrollment declines over the past decade.

Along with equity-focused funding for the next few years, the report also asks the state to establish a transparent equity task force to plan a long-term funding formula for higher-ed.

Source: https://www.nprillinois.org/post/new-report-says-illinois-should-change-how-it-funds-higher-ed#stream/0

This report was also featured on Tri States Public Radio, Northern Public Radio, and in POLITICO's Illinois Playbook.

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Work, classes, financial aid — and now COVID-19: Life as a poor college student has only gotten tougher during the pandemic

cpt-1

November 28, 2020

by ELYSSA CHERNEY - Chicago Tribune

When Ximena Castillo needs to focus on her college coursework, she walks down the hall from her basement apartment in Chicago's Gage Park neighborhood and settles into her new study spot: the laundry room.

No one bothers her there. It's quiet and the temperature is comfortable — until, that is, one of her neighbors needs to wash or dry a load.

But Castillo, a junior at Dominican University in River Forest, still prefers working there than in the small unit she shares with her parents, which is full of distractions. She used to live on campus, but she moved home after the coronavirus pandemic erupted and doesn't have her own bedroom anymore.

"I don't feel comfortable going to a cafe or anything currently," said Castillo, 20, who worries she could expose her relatives to COVID-19. The laundry room is "not the best, but not the worst. I would prefer to be outside with my dogs because I like sitting in nature, but it's way too cold for that right now."

Finding a setting conducive to schoolwork is just one of the myriad challenges low-income college students face as they try to continue their education despite pandemic-related setbacks.

Some students have withdrawn from school because of changing economic circumstances, problems with online learning or difficulty connecting to virtual student services.

According to U.S. census data from August, nearly 7 million people said they canceled college plans for the fall because their income had changed during the pandemic and they could no longer pay.

Overall undergraduate enrollment at U.S. colleges is down about 4.4%, with the greatest declines seen in community colleges and among first-year students, according to the latest data from the National Student Clearinghouse. While the NSC does not break the numbers down by socioeconomic status, nontraditional and low-income students typically favor community colleges.

In Illinois, fewer students have applied for federal and state financial aid since schools closed down in March compared with the same time last year, according to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, which administers need-based grants to college students. That's a sign low-income students might be abandoning college plans altogether instead of seeking help with tuition.

"For our low-income students, they are obviously struggling with their education and helping out with their families," said Jacqueline Moreno, an executive staff member at ISAC. "It's not entirely different from what low-income students face when they are first-generation college students in any year — it's just exacerbated right now, and people are paying more attention."

Unlike in families where going to university is expected, Moreno said, low-income and first-generation college students often feel guilt for pursuing higher education and not immediately entering the workforce to help with household bills.

Castillo, a graphic design major, is trying her best to stay on track. She's refinanced her student loans, received help from her school's COVID-19 relief fund and taken on extra jobs to put toward her tuition.

Her mom, who works at a Little Caesars, and her father, a construction worker on medical leave prior to the pandemic, don't make enough to cover the cost but have always encouraged her to pursue higher education, though they didn't go to college.

But between picking up shifts as a hostess at a University Village restaurant and trying to complete her coursework, Castillo is often exhausted. She's still more than $2,000 behind on school payments and can't register for spring classes until she puts forward more money, she said.

At the same time, her shifts at the restaurant have dried up as business slows due to the pandemic and the ban on indoor dining. Castillo used to work up to five days a week at Bar Louie but is now lucky if she gets scheduled for one.

"It's a lot on my plate," said Castillo, who went to George Westinghouse College Prep in East Garfield Park, part of Chicago Public Schools. "I feel like either my work suffers or my school suffers, and it's so hard.

"For a while I was juggling two jobs on top of school, and I felt like I was drowning. No sleep. Constantly on energy drinks and coffee just to get by. And it was so unsatisfying because I would do my best at everything and get half done."

'It went downhill this semester'

Taking time off from college was not part of Jony Estrada's plan. Though he was nervous about starting classes this fall at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Estrada had been eager to study economics and wanted to minor in finance.

The 21-year-old, however, began to feel overwhelmed with virtual learning and the amount of coursework. The large class sizes didn't help — Estrada said he grew anxious waiting for professors to reply to emailed questions — and he struggled to connect with UIC tutors when he tried to reach them by phone.

"I never considered taking a gap year until this year, when this whole pandemic started," said Estrada, who lives in the West Elsdon neighborhood, near Midway Airport, with his parents. "It went downhill this semester. I don't know if it's because I'm a new student and I'm not familiar with how things work around here or just because of the work."

Estrada earned his associate degree from Loyola University Chicago over the summer and participates in a program through the nonprofit Bottom Line, which helps low-income and first-generation students reach college and obtain a degree.

While Estrada hoped to continue making progress this semester, he felt staying in school would negatively affect his mental health, so he dropped his four classes just before midterms.

Chris Broughton, executive director of Bottom Line's Chicago operations, said most of the 1,500 students in his programs are sticking with school even though they don't like online classes.

"About 85% or more of our students are staying enrolled in college and trying to persist and navigate this new remote learning environment, even though it's been a challenge," he said. "Students are generally feeling dissatisfied and not enjoying that experience in the way they envisioned."

For now, Estrada hopes to get an internship in a business-related field as he decides whether to return to UIC in the spring. He's not sure if he should wait until next year, when there might be a better chance for in-person learning to resume.

"I will graduate because that's my goal also ― to get a diploma, to get a bachelor's degree ― but I think right now I need a little break," he said. "I just don't think I'm ready for this semester."

Deepening inequities

While anecdotes of students delaying college abound, the Illinois Board of Higher Education is trying to prevent students from pausing their studies.

As part of a new campaign called "Stay the Course," IBHE is publicizing data that shows "a significant percentage" of students who take gap years never complete college. The trend is especially prevalent for low-income students, rural students and students of color, the campaign says.

"Almost all of the new jobs created since the 2008 recession require some kind of credential beyond high school," the IBHE campaign says in social media posts and online messages.

According to one NSC study, only 10.5% of roughly the 1.6 million students who had dropped out of Illinois colleges returned to school between 2013 and 2018. Across all states, only 13% returned, and fewer graduated.

But today, as the pandemic enters its ninth month and a new wave of infections triggers statewide restrictions, some of the obstacles can seem insurmountable.

Jermaine Lash, who attended City Colleges of Chicago, is also taking this semester off because of problems with his financial aid.

Lash, 21, of Englewood, said he is seven credits away from earning an associate degree in business administration from Richard J. Daley College, one of the community college network's campuses. But complications with his Federal Pell Grant, assistance that goes to undergraduates with exceptional financial need, have prevented him from enrolling in fall classes.

Lash's advisers at One Million Degrees, an organization that helps Illinois community college students, said his predicament is especially difficult because he must deal with virtual student services at CCC during the arduous process of verifying his financial records.

Part of the holdup: Lash's mother recently died from health issues unrelated to the pandemic, and he can't access her tax documents, Lash said.

"I feel like it would be 10 times better if I could just talk to them in person," Lash said. "Then they'll get a better understanding and help guide me to the right path on figuring out a solution."

Until then, Lash is working in the deli at a Jewel-Osco close to downtown. He hopes the paperwork will be sorted out in time for spring classes but worries he might need to skip next semester too.

"I just want to finish this. I like college," he said. "I went ever since I got out of high school. ... Ever since then, I've never taken a break or anything. So now this is something new to me. ... It doesn't really feel right."

As a whole, Illinois community colleges are enduring a major hit from the pandemic, with enrollment plunging nearly 14% this fall, according to data from the Illinois Community College Board.

While IBHE hasn't released fall enrollment figures for the state's public universities, the NSC estimates overall college enrollment in Illinois dropped by 6.4%.

The gap indicates how the pandemic is disproportionately affecting low-income communities of color, said Lisa Castillo Richmond, managing director of the Partnership for College Completion, a Chicago nonprofit. She's concerned the pandemic will further deepen inequities in higher education.

"Our community colleges serve our most vulnerable students," she said. "They serve much greater proportions of low-income students, first-generation students, African American students and Latinx students."

The number of students seeking financial aid through state and federal grants has also dropped off since the pandemic closed schools in March, a sign that college may seem out of reach for some.

As of mid-November, the state's need-based Monetary Award Program had received 8% fewer applications from eligible students compared with the same point last year, according to ISAC.

For the 2021-22 school year, applications from MAP-eligible students have dropped by 9%, though it's still early in the cycle. Submissions only opened Oct. 1.

'Students will work their tails off'

During the pandemic, Dominican University has seen a "dramatic increase" in financial aid appeals, which students can file when there's a change in their economic situation.

For many, that's due to a family member losing a job, health care costs and other unforeseen expenses, said Victoria Spivak, assistant vice president of student enrollment services and director of financial aid.

"Dominican serves a very high-needs population," she said. "We are over 50% Pell eligible. ... We also serve a significant number of undocumented students."

In response to financial aid appeals, Dominican provided additional institutional aid and also distributed money made available to students through the federal coronavirus relief program. Students can use those grants to pay for pandemic-related expenses including food, housing and technology. So far, Dominican had awarded nearly $1.5 million in such grants, a spokeswoman said.

Broughton, of Bottom Line, said his organization also doled out more than $160,000 to help students with groceries and other emergency expenses over the last 10 months through a new fund.

But for students like Castillo, the struggle continues. Her mom lost two weeks of wages, she said, after someone at Little Caesars contracted COVID-19 and she had to quarantine due to the exposure.

Castillo has more time to study since her shifts at Bar Louie have been reduced, but she's anxious she won't have enough money to pay down her balance in time for spring classes.

Students can't register for courses if they owe $1,000 or more in unpaid fees, said Mark Carbonara, Dominican's director of academic advising and first-year experience, who's been helping Castillo look for more scholarships.

"Our students will work their tails off — second and third shift ― in order to pay for college," but those jobs are disappearing because of COVID-19, he said.

While it's nerve-wracking to wait, Castillo said she remains hopeful she'll come up with money to attend next semester. She said the adversity will make her a stronger person in the end.

"I just remind myself how lucky I am to even have the opportunity to go to school," she said. "I know a lot of people in my neighborhood who didn't have the same opportunities as I did."

Source: https://www.chicagotribune.com/coronavirus/ct-covid-19-illinois-low-income-college-students-20201127-53zqwvncw5colb72ni3ylxgjwu-story.html

This article was also featured in the Tyler Morning Telegraph and the Herald & Review.

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Without graduated income tax, Illinois state universities brace for ‘almost inevitable’ budget cuts ‘because there’s just nothing left'

cpt-2

November 12, 2020

by ELYSSA CHERNEY - Chicago Tribune

In Gov. J.B. Pritzker's first remarks after voters rejected his administration's signature proposal for a graduated-rate income tax in Illinois, the first-term Democrat singled out higher education as one of the many state-supported areas that could lose funding as lawmakers try to balance the next budget.

With no new sources of revenue and an expected drop in gains from sales tax during the coronavirus pandemic, Pritzker warned that he is left with few favorable options.

Reducing discretionary funding for the state's 12 public universities and community colleges could make it harder for students to afford college if schools raise tuition to offset the losses, some experts said. And there could be less money to support a grant program for low-income college students who qualify for state assistance in a time when more applicants are expected to seek aid.

While Illinois universities are not expecting any budget changes for this fiscal year, which began July 1, some advocates and policy experts said the long-term implications for Illinois higher education could be severe if new sources of funding aren't found.

"Without new revenue, our fear is that we will continue to see the same trajectory that the state has been on in terms of lower enrollment, especially for Black students," said Kyle Westbrook, executive director of the Partnership for College Completion, a Chicago-based nonprofit.

Over the past two decades, Westbrook said, state appropriations for public universities have remained relatively flat but haven't kept pace with inflation, and a greater share of the funding is being directed to pensions for public university and community college employees.

On top of that, some schools are still reeling from the state's two-year budget impasse under former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, Westbrook said. Universities that rely more heavily on state dollars and serve a higher number of lower-income students were disproportionately affected by the funding delays.

"You could argue the situation was dire even before the budget impasse, but that created a crisis in the system as a whole," said Westbrook, who led education policy in former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration. "The failure of the (tax amendment) to pass is so catastrophic for higher ed in the state."

Adam Schuster, senior director of budget and tax research at the right-leaning Illinois Policy Institute, agreed that inflation-adjusted spending on higher education is significantly down. Funding has dropped by nearly 20% since 2010, when accounting for inflation, while spending on pensions has skyrocketed, he said.

But Schuster called for reform to the state pension system, a politically divisive issue, as opposed to changing Illinois' flat income tax rate of 4.95%.

"Estimated progressive income tax revenues were not earmarked for any particular purpose and would have failed to close the state's structural deficit," he said in an email. "Cuts to state spending on higher education stem from the unsustainable growth in contributions to the state pension systems."

Public universities contacted by the Tribune had little to say about the failed constitutional amendment. A spokesman for Illinois State University said the school "will have to wait and see what next year's budget cycle looks like." Meanwhile, a spokesman for the University of Illinois System did not offer comment beyond confirming that no changes to state appropriations were planned for this year.

"It would be premature for us to comment on the current budget cycle or future appropriations until the governor's office and the General Assembly share their plans," said Mike Hines, a spokesman for Northeastern Illinois University.

On Thursday, the University of Illinois Board of Trustees approved a request for an 8.3% increase in state funding next year as officials projected $270 million in costs related to the pandemic. The request is sent to the state Board of Higher Education, the governor and the legislature for consideration.

But Jennifer Delaney, associate professor of higher education at U. of I.'s Urbana-Champaign campus, painted a darker picture. Because higher education spending is the largest discretionary portion of Illinois' budget, it is often the most vulnerable when cuts are required, Delaney said.

Delaney, who also serves on the Illinois Board of Higher Education, said her research shows that higher education funding is more volatile than other spending categories and closely tied to economic conditions. She said the pandemic-related recession exacerbates the situation this year.

"It's almost inevitable that higher ed will be cut because there's just nothing left," Delaney said. "The hope of the (tax amendment) is that it would have brought new or additional revenues in, and without those, it's just not at all clear where the money will come from."

Pritzker's graduated-rate income tax proposal might have provided some relief, but it fell short of the thresholds needed to pass on Election Day. The administration estimated the measure would have generated $1.2 billion in the budget year that ends June 30 and $3.4 billion in future years.

The state remains on shaky financial footing, with the administration projecting a combined loss of $6.5 billion in revenue this year and next year. Pritzker also asked state departments to propose cuts of 5% this year and 10% next year and previously warned there could be a 15% cut to discretionary spending without the constitutional amendment.

In addition to potential cuts, Pritzker said he is considering raising income taxes by 1 percentage point across the board. The General Assembly would have to approve the rate hike.

Melissa Hahn, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Board of Higher Education, released a statement saying "we're still in the budget development process," but did not provide further comment.

During a spring session that was truncated because of the pandemic, the General Assembly passed a $43 billion state budget that held funding relatively steady for education. That was a disappointment for universities, which were hoping to receive a 5% bump in funding before the pandemic hit.

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission, a state entity that manages need-based grants for college students, was also in line to receive an additional $50 million but instead saw its funding frozen at last year's level.

Eric Zarnikow, ISAC's executive director, said he understands that budget challenges were created by the pandemic but hopes lawmakers will continue to prioritize his agency's grants, which are distributed through the Monetary Award Program. MAP saw funding increases in 2018 and 2020, bringing it to a historic high of approximately $451 million.

Zarnikow said he thinks budget constraints might be a long-term issue and that it would help if lawmakers in Washington stepped in.

"In Illinois, as well as across the country, education and particularly higher education has been really impacted by COVID-19," he said. "We think support from the federal government is really going to be important to meet the needs of the education community."

Chicago Tribune's Dan Petrella contributed.

Original article: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-ilinois-higher-education-graduated-income-tax-20201112-h3nurmlqlra7hkuuneqlr4eqwe-story.html

This article was also featured in the Journal Gazette & Times-Courier, Herald & Review, The Bloomington Pantagraph


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Experts discuss possible solutions to college affordability in Illinois

WSILtv

October 21, 2020

by MIKE MILETICH - WSILTV.com

SPRINGFIELD (ILLINOIS CAPITOL BUREAU) – State lawmakers hope to craft a plan to make college more affordable, especially for many in low-income communities.

Experts say tuition rates continue to soar compared to the average income for those going to college or tech schools. They also told lawmakers community colleges haven't been exempt from the rise in costs due to inflation. Some feel financial aid is critical to providing access to higher education for students in low-income communities.

"We have families that are priced out not just from college attendance in general at four year institutions, but also public two year institutions," said Dr. Eboni Zamani-Gallaher.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professor noted dips in attendance align with a lack of diversity in funding models. Zamani-Gallaher feels the state needs more incentives and opportunities to attract students to continue their education.

Currently, five community colleges in Illinois offer promise programs to help high school graduates with full scholarships.

"When combined with Pell and MAP grants, many community college students that benefit from promise programs can attend college without any out-of-pocket costs in terms of tuition and fees," said Brian Durham, Executive Director of the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB).

However, the promise programs fall under a category of "last dollar" programs. Durham explained students have to take advantage of all other options of aid before they access funding from promise programs.

Importance of financial aid
Data from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission showing costs for low-income students.

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) also feels financial aid is critical to providing higher education to students in low-income communities.

Executive Director Eric Zarnikow says 54% of MAP recipients are first-generation college students or have no financial resources for college.

"MAP is supporting about 60% of Black undergraduates and well over half of Latino/Latina undergrads attending public universities," Zarnikow said.

He also highlighted work with Gov. JB Pritzker's office to identify a plan to improve grant aid. Zarnikow said combining a $50 million increase in MAP funding with an effort to put 15% of those funds towards community college students could cover tuition and fees for most MAP-eligible community college students.

"He aimed to make community college tuition-free for MAP eligible students whose families make under $45,000 a year. That was essentially free community college program for families making under that amount," Zarnikow added.

Strong free college programs

Meanwhile, the Partnership for College Completion argues Illinois has the framework for a free four-year college program through MAP grants.

"We frankly believe very strongly in the mission of MAP to serve our lowest income students and our neediest students in our state and prioritizing our public resources to do that," Executive Director Kyle Westbrook said.

Sarah Labadie, Associate Director of Policy for Women Employed, feels the idea of free college is attractive to many people. While some community colleges function tuition-free, Labadie noted the state doesn't market it that way.

"If designed really well, a free college program or even remarketing our current program could really ensure that we're able to attract more students to higher education who otherwise think it's out of reach," Labadie explained.

She told lawmakers strong free college programs ensure students leave college without debt. Labadie said successful programs allow anyone to take advantage of the assistance and cover costs for four years of education.

Planning for the future


Many hope the state could explore an equity-based funding model for college similar to the K-12 evidence-based model.

"Even if we gave more money to this system, it is not going to bring equity and justice when it comes to communities of color. It is not designed that way and we have to accept that, find the flaw in it, and fix the design," added Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana).

The Illinois Board of Higher Education hosted focus groups and created a survey for people to share solutions. Executive Director Ginger Ostro hopes to adopt their strategic plan by late March with support from the ICCB and ISAC. Still, Ostro said that would only be the start of the process.

"We will have the need for a series of policy changes, state-level practice changes, as well as institutional-level changes," Ostro explained. "As we go over the next couple of months, there's really an opportunity here for all of us to come together and decide what direction we want to go. How are we going to address these inequities that we've seen in the higher education system? How are we going to meet workforce needs, and how are we going to drive the state's economy?"

Source: https://wsiltv.com/2020/10/21/experts-discuss-possible-solutions-to-college-affordability-in-illinois/ 

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Chicago State Organizes Statewide Effort To Boost College Success For Illinois’ Black Students

cpt

July 30, 2020

by KATE MCGEE - WBEZ

Faced with a 25% drop in Black enrollment at Illinois' public universities and colleges, a group of university officials, business leaders and advocacy groups are joining together to try to improve outcomes for Black students. The drop in enrollment, as well as declining graduation rates, have come while rates for other underrepresented student groups have increased.

Chicago State University, Illinois' only predominantly Black university, announced Thursday it is forming a working group to increase opportunities for Black students to enroll and graduate from college and find good jobs.

"Black students are having a different experience from that of white students," said CSU President Zaldwaynaka Scott. "[We] need to figure out what is at the root cause that is creating more obstacles, roadblocks and impediments to that."

According to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, Black student enrollment at public universities and community colleges dropped 25% between 2013 and 2017. The percentage of Black students graduating from public universities and community colleges dropped 12% during that same time.

A recent report from the nonprofit, the Education Trust, recently gave the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of Illinois at Chicago "F" grades for their Black student enrollments, which are 6% and 8% respectively, and make up a slightly smaller percentage of the student body than they did two decades ago. This week, the university pledged $2 million to prioritize faculty research and campus discussions on systemic racism.

While Illinois has seen its black population decline in recent years, Scott said there are more fundamental issues at play, which has been made more apparent by the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Black community and the current national reckoning on systemic racism and policing after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.

"This whole system is not working for Black people," Scott said. "It's not just higher ed's problem. Our entire state are stakeholders in the outcome."

The working group will be chaired by Scott, Illinois Sen. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago), John Atkinson, Chair of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, and Karen Freeman-Wilson, President of the Chicago Urban League. The group includes public and private university leaders, state lawmakers, and representatives from businesses including John Deere, AT&T and the Hyatt Corporation. It also includes representatives from community advocacy groups.

"Through a long history of disinvestment in our state's public universities and community colleges, Illinois has, through state policy, limited opportunities for students and families who are least able to afford to attend college, and those students are disproportionately African American," said Kyle Westbrook, executive director of the Partnership for College Completion and a member of the working group. "[I] hope that this collection of legislative and institutional leaders can increase the momentum towards enacting policies to remove barriers to success for Black students."

Scott said she'd like to see recommendations that focus on the transition from high school to college to better support Black students interested in a degree, including financial literacy and more college-level coursework in high schools. She also said continued financial resources beyond tuition grants and scholarships are key for students who are discouraged or overwhelmed by the additional cost of college, such as books, living expenses and food. Meanwhile, Westbrook pointed to policies that he says are barriers for students, including using standardized test scores for admissions and requiring underprepared college students to take developmental or remedial education classes before being able to take college-level courses.

The first meeting is scheduled for September 10. The goal is to develop an equity plan that includes policy recommendations by January 2021 ahead of the next legislative session.

Kate McGee covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter@WBEZeducationand@McGeeReports.

Source: https://www.wbez.org/stories/chicago-state-organizes-statewide-effort-to-boost-college-success-for-illinois-black-students/155b8f83-6b84-4853-83e3-b3840636efbc


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Op-Ed: City Colleges Makes Bold Move Toward Equity

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July 14, 2020

by KYLE WESTBROOK, PH.D. - Crain's Chicago Business

For far too many of our students, and members of our community, the emails that filled our inboxes a month ago affirming the importance of racial equity, rang hollow. With no concrete, bold, and demonstrable action to follow, these messages can easily be filed away in the spam folder of white guilt relief. That email from a company or even a college or university may make the authors feel proud of a well-crafted response to the moment, but it does little to address the enduring structural racism baked into our institutions.

While companies such as Chicago's Quaker Oats and D.C.'s pro football team have made important steps to remove the worst iconography of racism and oppression from their brands, fewer have taken the most meaningful steps in actually investing money into dismantling institutional racism and providing the foundation for a future that has justice at its core.

This is why the incredible step taken by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Juan Salgado is so important. By cancelling the college debt for some 21,000 students who re-enroll in City Colleges, Mayor Lightfoot and Chancellor Salgado acknowledge two important facts: first, that the increasing cost of college limits opportunity for students who are least able to afford it, and second, that it is high time to get serious about investing in the tens of thousands of residents who started their journey to a degree or credential but were unable to complete it. This debt forgiveness program also represents a modest investment toward rectifying the economic injustice heaped on the backs of Chicago's black and brown communities for decades.

A 2017 Brookings Institute report described a crisis in which black student borrowers with a Bachelor's degree default at a rate five times higher than their white peers--20% versus 4%, respectively, making it no surprise that the wealth gap between black and white America has persisted. City Colleges of Chicago's investment announced this week can go a long way toward reversing this trend for the largely black and brown students who would be Fresh Start's major beneficiaries.

This important investment in our city's future should not stand alone but should be matched by other public and private colleges and universities in and around our city, and should provide the blueprint on how to aggressively prioritize racial equity now and in the future.

Here are 5 other steps that colleges and universities should take today to make good on their email messaging about racial equity:

  1. Permanently eliminate SAT and ACT from their admissions decisions.
  2. Eliminate or radically reduce developmental education courses which limit opportunities for black and brown students.
  3. Commit substantial resources to recruiting and retaining black and brown faculty.
  4. Make eliminating the racial gap in degree completion the highest priority for the institution and commit to sharing disaggregated data on completion and student progress.
  5. Actively recruit in every single high school in the city of Chicago to ensure that our institutions, especially our public institutions, represent the diversity of our student population.

If cash-strapped City Colleges can make this kind of investment in its future and racial justice at the same time, so can others.

Kyle Westbrook, Ph.D., is the founding executive director of the Partnership for College Completion, a nonprofit promoting policies, systems, and practices to ensure all students in Illinois graduate from college and achieve their career aspirations.

Source: https://www.chicagobusiness.com/opinion/city-colleges-makes-bold-move-toward-equity


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Illinois Higher Education Leaders Withholding Judgment On Pritzker's Budget Bet

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February 21, 2020

by KATE MCGEE - WBEZ

The budget plan unveiled by Gov. JB Pritzker's this week holds back funding increases for public schools and higher education if a proposed graduated income tax doesn't pass in November, endangering funding for two of his top priorities.

Some public school advocates and state leaders reacted swiftly, expressing disappointment and anger at the prospect of losing out on $150 million in new state funding.

But there has been little outcry among higher education leaders. This comes even though a $55 million increase for public universities and a $15 million increase for community colleges hangs in the balance. If voters don't approve the graduated income tax, that money won't materialize under the governor's budget plan.

"The higher education funding is absolutely necessary for us right now. At the same time I understand the money may not be there," University of Illinois at Chicago Chancellor Michael Amiridis said on Thursday. "They have to balance the budget. So I'm glad it's part of the budget and I hope it will be realized eventually."

Amiridis went as far as to describe Illinois' current higher education landscape as undergoing a "renaissance" at an event with the governor at the UIC campus.

"We have a governor who understands the importance of access to education, especially for low-socioeconomic background students," Amiridis told a crowd of university officials in the middle of the UIC library, as students chatted and hunched over books at tables nearby. "[He] not only talks about it, but also works to support it financially."

Illinois lawmakers increased general funding for the state's public colleges and universities funding by 8.2% last year, the largest percentage jump in nearly three decades. The increase drew applause after years of underinvestment and two years where public universities had to live with drastically reduced state appropriations during the budget impasse.

Pritzker's public support after that tumultuous time could explain why higher education leaders are quick to support him now, despite the proposal that could leave them with no budget increase next year..

Governors State University President Elaine Maimon said she believes the governor wants to do whatever he can to support higher education And the three higher education boards in Illinois touted the governor's proposal in a press release.

"This second year of increased investment signals that we have a champion who understands how important higher education is to students, families, employers, and the state as a whole," Ginger Ostro, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, said in a statement.

The release did not mention that the funding is contingent on the graduated income tax. Instead, it focused on other funding proposals that are not reliant on passage of the tax, including increased money for need-based tuition grants, known as the Monetary Award Program.

Pritzker wants to make an additional $50 million available for low-income students to use toward tuition, increasing the total amount to over $500 million for the first time in decades.

He also set aside 15% of that money specifically for community college students, which state leaders believe would make community college tuition-free for all eligible students with family income under $45,000.

"The investment in a MAP set-aside for community college students is a commitment to equity, access and attainment for working families in Illinois," Brian Durham, executive director of the Illinois Community College Board, said in the release. "This set-aside will allow community college students to make decisions knowing they will have the support of the state."

Pritzker also proposed adding $27 million to the College Illinois! Program, which lets families save for college for a future student. He said the fund will run out of money in six years if the state doesn't put money toward the program. This program is also contingent on the graduated income tax, according to Pritzker's proposal.

He also wants to fund statewide implementation of the national college application so students could apply to all public-four year universities at the same time using one application. If included in the final budget, Illinois would be the first state to implement this policy. This is seen as another way to encourage students to remain in-state for college. Most Illinois students are already using the Common App, but for out-of-state schools. Pritzker also continued funding the merit-based AIM High grants, another way lawmakers have tried to attract Illinois students to enroll in-state.

State groups focused on higher education, including the Partnership for College Completion in Chicago, also said they understand the governor's decision to make the higher education funding increases contingent on new revenued. But they said it's important to keep advocating for increased investment.

"The governor and the General Assembly have demonstrated a willingness to invest in our students and our institutions that is noteworthy given our state's recent history," Kyle Westbrook, executive director of Partnership for College Completion, said in an email. "But we'll only be in a renaissance period when every eligible low-income student has the funding necessary to enroll in one of our colleges; when those colleges have student populations that are representative of our state's population; and when underrepresented minorities are graduating at the same rates as other students."

Northeastern Illinois University president Gloria Gibson had no comment on the issue. The University of Illinois system did not return multiple requests for comment. 

Kate McGee covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter at @WBEZeducation and @McGeeReports.

​Original article: https://www.npr.org/local/309/2020/02/21/808094994/illinois-higher-education-leaders-withholding-judgment-on-pritzker-s-budget-bet


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Rising tuition makes college access harder for low-income students

daily-herald

January 3, 2020

by MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY - Daily Herald

Rising tuition and state underfunding of public colleges and universities has put access and affordability out of reach for low-income students, experts say.

The impact is being felt most acutely by black students whose enrollment in four-year colleges has steadily declined, according to a report by the nonprofit Partnership for College Completion.

The group works with colleges and universities to improve completion rates for low-income, minority and first-generation students. It found 11,100 fewer black students attended Illinois' public and private, nonprofit institutions in 2017 compared to 2007.

"We have seen a mass exodus of black students from higher education in Illinois over the last several years," said Kyle Westbrook, executive director of the Partnership for College Completion.

On the flip side, Latino students disproportionately are enrolling in community colleges and are about 30% less likely to transfer to four-year institutions than white students, another Partnership report shows.

The declining funding of colleges and universities has led to students leaving Illinois for nearby states, Westbrook said.

For a student whose family makes less than $30,000 a year, the cost of attending a public four-year college is about $12,800 per year -- 50% more than the Midwestern average. That same student would pay yearly about $17,500 to attend a private four-year college, about $22,000 at a for-profit institution, and around $6,200 to attend a community college in Illinois, the report shows.

Meanwhile, overall state appropriation for Illinois public universities has declined by more than 50% from 2002 to 2018. State funding of the Monetary Award Program grant for low-income students has remained static during that period, the report shows.

"Universities have passed those costs onto students," Westbrook said. "Students who can least afford it are the (ones) being priced out."

State funding has not kept pace with rising tuition costs or the increase in the number of MAP-eligible students. About 46% of eligible students receive MAP grants. Students are awarded a maximum of $4,900.

"The award covers only about 34% of tuition and fees at our public universities. And not every student who is eligible actually receives one," Westbrook said.

The group recommends increasing state funding for public institutions serving large populations of low-income students as well as the MAP grant -- awarded based on financial need. It also urges creating a task force for an equity-driven funding formula for higher education.

Source: https://www.dailyherald.com/news/20200103/rising-tuition-makes-college-access-harder-for-low-income-students 


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How community colleges are supporting low-income black, Latino students

How community colleges are supporting low-income black, Latino students

January 3, 2020

by MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY - Daily Herald

Growing up in the Northwest suburbs, Daliyah Sanders often felt isolated from her peers as the only black student in her class practically since kindergarten through high school.

"It's been my reality my entire life," said Sanders, 19, of Schaumburg.

It's why connecting with peers and professors in college was an important motivator for Sanders to stay in school. That and getting a tuition-free full ride at Harper College in Palatine through the One Million Degrees program, which helps hundreds of community college students succeed in the classroom and beyond.

Sanders transferred to Harper from a four-year college in Chicago that didn't offer her the personalized attention she needed. Harper, she realized, was the better option because of the supports it offers minority students, such as tuition assistance, mentoring and networking.

"I chose this program because ... my friend talked about how good of an experience it was. ... I liked the overall help it was giving to students," said Sanders, who learned about the program as a student at Hoffman Estates High School.

Low-income minority students, like Sanders, increasingly are ditching four-year institutions due to rising tuition costs and lack of supports.

Community colleges are positioned uniquely to help these students through career path programs tailored to what local employers need, said Kyle Westbrook, executive director of the Partnership for College Completion.

"They are deeply embedded. They are closer to the communities, to the high schools," Westbrook said. "They have been building dual-credit, dual-enrollment options for high schools that can be major access avenues for low-income student populations."

Nearly a third of students at suburban community colleges come from low-income families and receive assistance through federal Pell grants and state Monetary Award Program grants. Many colleges have adopted programs and policies that help black, Latino and low-income students complete degree programs and transfer to four-year universities.

Elgin Community College offers robust mentoring services, including peer mentoring, for its black and Latino students, who comprise roughly 4% and 48%, respectively, of the college's student population.

"We also have a mandatory advising program ... requiring certain groups of students that we've identified as having some needs to meet with their advisers before they enroll for the semester," said David Rudden, ECC managing director of institutional research.

Other interventions include expanding outreach to Latino students through the Organization of Latin American Students club. The college's Spartan Food Pantry and financial literacy program also are geared toward serving the low-income student population.

College of Lake County in Grayslake is partnering with area high schools that have higher populations of low-income black and Latino students -- North Chicago, Round Lake, Waukegan and Zion-Benton -- to provide career counseling and support.

One such experiment places a CLC college transitions coach at Mundelein High School to build relationships with students and families, and help them through the financial aid and application processes.

"Rarely it's the academic aspect that is the deterrent for student success," CLC President Lori Suddick said. Rather, it's about "affordability, not knowing how to navigate the system, and understanding how to successfully advocate for oneself within an environment that (isn't) always designed in ways to benefit people."

CLC is supporting students' basic needs through an on-campus food pantry where they can grab a snack and get free groceries, hygiene products and clothing. It also provides emergency funds, such as if a student has a flat tire or a household problem.

Students without home internet access or a personal computer can check out Chromebooks or use CLC's library hot spots. Officials also are adopting open education resources to eliminate textbook costs and creating dual-credit programs for high schoolers. The college's three campuses -- Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan -- house career path programs tailored to the needs of the communities they serve.

The college recently changed its policy of dropping students for not paying the previous semester's fees. Once dropped, students often don't re-enroll. Students now can remain enrolled while paying overdue fees through a payment plan.

Harper partners with Barrington Area Unit District 220, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 and Northwest Suburban High School District 214 for its Summer Scholars program. It enrolls students coming from high school lacking skills, first-generation and underrepresented students, and those with disabilities or whose English and math skills are not up to college level.

"They get to come on campus ahead of the rest of the fall class, get an opportunity to meet students, and form friendships and bonds," said Sheryl Otto, Harper associate provost for student affairs.

Based on first-semester performance, students are eligible for a monetary award toward second-semester tuition and fees.

"It is to try and help keep them motivated and keep that momentum encouraging them to enroll," Otto said. "It's much harder once we lose those students to get them back into the institution."

Harper's partnership with One Million Degrees provides more comprehensive services targeting similar populations, helping them earn associate degrees and transfer to baccalaureate programs.

Students get support through tutoring assistance, workshops, academic advisers and personal/professional mentors. Between financial aid and scholarships through the Harper College Educational Foundation, students in the program pay no tuition costs.

Currently, 160 students are enrolled in the program -- about 10% are black, while black students comprise 4% of Harper's total student population. Of last year's batch, 85% of students successfully completed the course.

College of DuPage has hosted a black student leadership conference for the last five years to engage high school students and help them understand what it means to be college-ready. COD is working on transfer partnerships with historically black colleges and universities for its roughly 7% black student population and will host a hip-hop summit this spring.

"We are trying to do things to make it an environment for African American students so they feel like they belong here," said Mark Curtis-Chavez, COD provost of academic and student affairs.

This year, COD hosted it's first Latino Leaders Luncheon with community leaders from throughout DuPage County. The college has a growing Latino student population -- nearly 27% -- and officials are starting to recruit students directly at the high schools.

"Our goal is to increase the success rates of African American and Latino students by 4% by the end of next year," Curtis-Chavez said. "Success means three things for us: persistence, graduation and transfer."

Source: https://www.dailyherald.com/news/20200103/how-community-colleges-are-supporting-low-income-black-latino-students 


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Nonprofit presents report on minority student equity gaps in higher education

northern-star

November 30, 2019

NAJLA EDWARDS - Northern Star

DeKALB — Black students aren't graduating at the same rates as white and latinx students, minorities are under-represented in higher education institutions and rural students struggle with returning to rural areas after college, according to a report by an Illinois nonprofit.

Partnership for College Completion presented their report Tuesday in Altgeld Hall.

Partnership for College Completion was founded in 2016 and researches policies that could ensure all students in Illinois graduate and meet their career aspirations, according to their website.

Mike Abrahamson, PCC's policy analyst and author of the report, presented the report.

Nearly two decades ago, Illinois was considered a leader in college affordability due to strong investment in its universities, the report reads. In 2002, the state covered the majority of college costs through state appropriations, like the Monetary Award Program, leaving just 28% to 30% to be covered by students through tuition and fees.

The 2002 MAP grant covered up to 100% of tuition and fees at public community colleges and four year institutions. In the fiscal year 2002, all eligible students that applied received an award, according to the report.

Illinois has become the worst in the nation regarding the size of its cuts to per-student higher education funding, the report states. Due to this, students' share of college costs increased dramatically between 2002 and 2018.

From 2002 to 2018, funding for public universities was cut over 50%, which included community colleges as well, according to The Illinois Board of Higher Education's budget recommendations.

As a result, the state shifted many costs previously covered by Illinois to the institutions themselves. This brought tuition increases and deficit spending.

At most Illinois colleges, there are wide gaps between black and white students' graduation rates, and black students are under-represented at institutions that have smaller completion gaps, according to the report.

Among the state's most selective institutions like the University of Chicago or Northwestern University, 7% of attending students are black, on average, the report finds. Less selective institutions show an average black enrollment of 14%.

Data cited by the report shows that black prospective students are more interested in applying to colleges that have the highest graduation rates for black students rather than the highest enrollment rates.

Despite this, colleges that have higher graduation rates for black students enroll significantly less black students.

After the presentation, guests had lunch and continued to discuss these topics.

"I think that we are fortunate to be aware of our ability to improve as well as having a president and chief diversity officer that really are at the forefront of recognizing the value of the diversity that our students bring," Molly Holmes, director of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at NIU, said. "It's on us to close those gaps, our students aren't the gaps. We are the ones who need to know our students. Those numbers are our students that we support outside the classroom so that they can persist to graduation."

Editor's note: This story was updated Dec. 2 to correct two errors. Mike Abrahamson is the PCC's policy analyst, not political analyst, and a section has been clarified to refer to specifically the 2002 MAP grant. It now states that all eligible students that applied received an award, not all eligible students in general.

Source: https://northernstar.info/news/nonprofit-presents-report-on-minority-student-equity-gaps-in-higher/article_b3ec3ce4-1399-11ea-bfad-e7ebb6fb0c3d.html 

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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

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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/

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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



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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


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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

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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/


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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/

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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/

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