BY Conor Wood | Public News Service

Illinois is taking steps to increase higher education opportunities for people across the state.

Gov. JB Pritzker signed two higher-ed bills into law Tuesday. One will create new support staff to help students find and get financial aid, and the other will compel schools to create equity plans to remove barriers for students from underrepresented communities.

Emily Goldman, senior policy manager for the Partnership for College Completion, said the measures will help students stay enrolled once they enter college.

“These bills really are about ensuring that Illinois students have access to the resources that they need, to access and persist in college,” Goldman explained.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) reports the state’s overall public university enrollment increased from 2019 to the most recent school year, although total enrollment for undergraduates alone dropped slightly.

Black student enrollment at Illinois’ public universities was also down a little more than 1% from the 2020-2021 school year, according to the IBHE. Goldman pointed out the declines are at least partly driven by rising tuition, which she attributes to a decadeslong trend of underfunding public universities.

“While we’ve seen that the rising costs at universities and colleges have leveled off since 2015,” Goldman noted. “College affordability is still perhaps the most significant barrier for many students.”

According to a report from Goldman’s organization, Illinois’ Black and Latino students have been steadily priced out of the state’s public universities, as tuition nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2018.

The state reports overall college enrollment among Black students, including at for-profit and out-of-state schools, dropped by about 40% in the last decade.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

Read the original article here: