Illinois’ higher education could certainly use a “reinventing,” as the Chicago Tribune’s recent editorial calls for, but it also needs some reinvesting.

Since 2000, our high school graduates have increasingly moved out of state for college. And it’s not just coincidence that our state’s disinvestment in higher ed has been steady through administrations of both parties dating back to 2002.

We commend the University of Illinois for its bold investment in ensuring that there is a pathway into and through the state’s flagship institute of higher education. However, too few of our state’s public universities have the resources to be able to make such an offer, due to nearly two decades of funding cuts.

There is no doubt that in an enterprise as large as higher education in Illinois there is room for improved efficiency, and in every public agency we need to take a tough and open-minded look at ways to get the biggest bang for the taxpayer’s buck. Possible consolidation of administrative functions and elimination of under-enrolled programs should be on the table, but we need to be mindful of what the impact would be on our students from low-income households who are especially reliant on our public universities.

The bottom line should be increasing opportunity by investing in our universities and the path to the middle class they represent, while being accountable for strong results and fiscal responsibility.

After all, when has disinvesting in education and limiting opportunity increased anything other than incarceration rates?

— Kyle Westbrook, executive director, The Partnership for College Completion