• NEW FEATURED REPORT:
    Priced Out: Rural Students, On Illinois’ Disinvestment In Higher Education & What Can Be Done About It

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

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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

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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

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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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Black college students in Illinois get the short end of the financial stick

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https://hechingerreport.org/black-college-students-in-illinois-get-the-short-end-of-the-financial-stick/

OCT 25, 2019
DELECE SMITH-BARROW - The Hechinger Report

Illinois is spending more on higher ed overall but less on financial aid, as pension plans gobble funding

by

October 25, 2019

Editor's note: This story led off this week's Higher Education newsletter, which is delivered free to subscribers' inboxes every Thursday.

Illinois is in a league of its own when it comes to state spending on higher education. It spent 32 percent more per full-time equivalent student, after adjusting for inflation, in 2018 than it did in 2008 – far more than any other state, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. This spending is particularly noteworthy because 40 states spent less on higher education in 2018 than they did before the Great Recession.

Many would think the more money a state has, the more it can spend on postsecondary education. Meeting the financial needs of low-income students, for example, should be easier. But Illinois students who are the most disadvantaged – typically those from low-income households or underrepresented minority groups – are not being adequately served, according to data from the Partnership for College Completion, a regional group that works to help more students complete college in the Chicago area. Their newly released report, "Priced Out: Black Students," shows that black students in Illinois colleges and universities are getting the short end of the stick financially.

Black families in Illinois spend 44 percent of their income, on average, to attend public institutions, while white families spend 31 percent, the report states. For private colleges and universities, black families on average spend 51 percent of their income but white families spend 35 percent.

When black students leave college in Illinois, it's often with higher debt than their white peers, too. About 38 percent of black graduates owed more than $15,000 while just 23 percent of white students owed this much.

The state's overall investment in higher education has increased in recent years, but Illinois has failed to allot enough money for student aid, said Kyle Westbrook, executive director for the Partnership for College Completion.

"Tuition is going up at the time that the state's need-based aid has remained flat," he said.

Since 2002, he said, the state has appropriated fewer and fewer dollars toward the Monetary Award Program, a need-based grant for low-income Illinois students. That year, every student who was eligible for MAP received aid. Now, "about 43 percent of the students who were eligible don't even receive awards," Westbrook said.

With less state aid available, black students are being left behind.

The students in the state who are least able to pay, who are disproportionately black, are either not attending college at all, taking out loans or going to for-profit schools that don't provide the same value, Westbrook said.

"In 2018, 46 percent of total state funding for higher education went to Illinois' pension system."

Sophia Laderman, senior policy analyst, State Higher Education Executive Officers Association

There are "11,000 fewer African-American students in our higher education system in 2017 than there were in 2007," he said.

So where is all that higher education money going? To pension funds.

"In 2018, 46 percent of total state funding for higher education went to Illinois' pension system," said Sophia Laderman, a senior policy analyst at the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, a national professional organization. Back in 2008, Illinois spent just 13.6 of its total higher education funding on pensions, the association reported.

The state is making up for years of disinvestment into its higher education system's pension funds, said Andy Carlson, vice president of finance policy and member services at the association.

"There's only so much money to go around," Carlson said. "A choice has been made because they're constitutionally obligated to fund the pension program."

The pot of money for higher education needs to get bigger, Westbrook said, but the state must also prioritize equity when delivering its appropriations.

There is hope, however, that more students will soon receive MAP, which currently has a maximum award of $5,340. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced this month that he plans to increase the funding for MAP by 50 percent over the next five years.

"We want to make sure that as the state is reinvesting in our public institutions that we're reinvesting in a way that is smart, targeted and equitable," Carlson said.

This story about higher education funding in Illinois was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter.

The Hechinger Report is a national nonprofit newsroom that reports on one topic: education. Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get stories like this delivered directly to your inbox.


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Op-Ed: Remedial Courses a Black Hole for College Resources, Aspirations - More institutions should offer first-year students for-credit courses and other alternatives.

Crains

October 24, 2019

KYLE WESTBROOK - Crain's Chicago Business

Lurking beneath the good news on annual gains in college-going rates for black and Latinx students from Chicago is a literal black hole that likely will be the place where college and career aspirations go to die: developmental or remedial education.

Every year in Illinois, tens of thousands of students will be placed into remedial courses, mostly in math and English. Once they are placed into these developmental education courses, students rarely get out. In 2016, less than 1 in 5 students who began their college careers in developmental education courses earned a degree.

In early 2019, the Partnership for College Completion released a policy brief on remediation in Illinois, reviewing publicly available data and urging a significant overhaul of the measures used to judge "college readiness," which place nearly 46 percent of all students enrolling in community college into remedial coursework. We also called for reforming the structure of remedial courses that serve few students well.

A broken remedial education system serves few students well but disproportionately underserves black and Latinx students.

In 2016, among students attending community college, 62 percent of Latinx and 71 percent of black students were placed in remediation, compared to 41 percent of white students. Larger societal inequities that result in disparate life outcomes for black and Latinx populations contribute to these inequities, but research shows that high-stakes tests like those often used for college placement exacerbate those inequities and calcify them into a student's career outcomes.

Traditionally, students placed in developmental education must successfully complete a non-credit-bearing course—which often costs as much as a credit-bearing course—before they can enroll in their gateway courses. Only four years ago, some students at one community college in Chicago had to pass up to four levels of remediation or four prerequisite courses before they could enter a college English course.

These courses consume precious financial aid dollars like Illinois Monetary Award Program funds, which every year run out before all eligible students receive an award. Last year, nearly 100,000 Illinois students were turned away for a MAP grant because the funds were depleted.

Fortunately, these types of barriers are increasingly becoming relics of the past as more institutions and state legislatures look for alternatives to fix this broken system.

States such as California and Texas have prioritized co-requisite models for remediation. In co-requisite models, students who may need remediation enroll in their credit-bearing courses while being concurrently enrolled in a course or lab that provides them with additional support. A recent report on the outcomes of California reforms shows a significant increase in black and Latinx students passing gateway courses in both math and English.

There also are signs of progress in Illinois.

In 2018, the chief academic officers and presidents of the state's community colleges adopted a recommendation that colleges use alternative placement measures to high-stakes tests, such as cumulative high school GPA, since tests like SAT and ACT have been found to be more closely correlated to a student's family income than to their likelihood of succeeding in college.

Similarly, our state's high schools are increasingly offering developmental math and English. More Illinois institutions need to follow the lead of Harper College in Palatine and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, which have successfully implemented co-requisite remediation.

Illinois leaves a lot of talent on the table when too few students succeed in college, not because of a lack of will or skill, but because the systems that are meant to serve them fail them.

Kyle Westbrook is executive director of Partnership for College Completion, a nonprofit, and has more than 20 years of experience as a teacher and administrator in public education.

Source:  https://www.chicagobusiness.com/forum-ideas-public-schools/remedial-courses-black-hole-college-resources-aspirations 

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Wealthy parents reportedly giving up custody of kids to get need-based financial aid

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https://abc7chicago.com/education/suburban-parents-reportedly-giving-up-custody-of-kids-to-get-financial-aid/5430078/

JUL 31, 2019
- ABC 7 Chicago; KGO-TV

CHICAGO -- Wealthy suburban parents in the Chicago area are using a legal loophole in order to get their children more need-based financial aid, according to a report by ProPublica Illinois.

The report discovered dozens or more cases where parents hired lawyers to petition the court to turn over guardianship to a friend or relative so the student could be declared financially independent and qualify for financial aid.

ProPublica Illinois reporter Jody Cohen said she sifted through 1,800 probate petitions from 2018 and 2019, but more than 40 guardianship petitions stood out to her.

They were formal petitions filed by lawyers on behalf of well-to-do parents who were, for example, doctors and real estate agents in suburbs like Buffalo Grove and Deerfield, giving up custody of their kids during their junior or senior year of high school.

In response, the Department of Education is suggesting changes be made to close the loop hole.

It's adding language that says if a student enters into a legal guardianship, but continues to receive financial and medical support from their parents, they are still a dependent student.

While the practice of doing this is a loophole, it is not illegal. But it sparks an ethical problem if financial aid is limited and takes away from a potential student with a real need.

Kyle Westbrook leads the Partnership for College Completion, an advocacy organization for improving college outcomes for low income students.

"We think of it as hundreds of thousands of dollars that should have gone to low-income students and likely the difference between some students going to college and not going," said Westbrook.

Last year, more than 80,000 students who were eligible didn't get the aid because the money ran out.

For low income students that could mean the decision not to go to college.

VIDEO: Wealthy parents reportedly giving up custody of kids to get need-based financial aid

Wealthy suburban parents in the Chicago area are using a legal loophole in order to get their children more need-based financial aid, according to a report by ProPublica Illinois.

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Suburban parents reportedly giving up custody of kids to get need-based financial aid

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https://chicagocrusader.com/suburban-parents-reportedly-giving-up-custody-of-kids-to-get-need-based-financial-aid/

JUL 31, 2019
- ABC 7 Chicago as appears in Chicago Crusader

Wealthy suburban parents in the Chicago area are using a legal loophole in order to get their children more need-based financial aid, according to a report by ProPublica Illinois.

The report discovered dozens or more cases where parents hired lawyers to petition the court to turn over guardianship to a friend or relative so the student could be declared financially independent and qualify for financial aid.

ProPublica Illinois reporter Jody Cohen said she sifted through 1,800 probate petitions from 2018 and 2019, but more than 40 guardianship petitions stood out to her.

They were formal petitions filed by lawyers on behalf of well-to-do parents who were, for example, doctors and real estate agents in suburbs like Buffalo Grove and Deerfield, giving up custody of their kids during their junior or senior year of high school.

In response, the Department of Education is suggesting changes be made to close the loop hole.

It's adding language that says if a student enters into a legal guardianship, but continues to receive financial and medical support from their parents, they are still a dependent student.

While the practice of doing this is a loophole, it is not illegal. But it sparks an ethical problem if financial aid is limited and takes away from a potential student with a real need.

Kyle Westbrook leads the Partnership for College Completion, an advocacy organization for improving college outcomes for low income students.

"We think of it as hundreds of thousands of dollars that should have gone to low-income students and likely the difference between some students going to college and not going," said Westbrook.

Last year, more than 80,000 students who were eligible didn't get the aid because the money ran out.

For low income students that could mean the decision not to go to college.


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Suburban parents reportedly giving up custody of kids to get need-based financial aid

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https://abc7chicago.com/education/suburban-parents-reportedly-giving-up-custody-of-kids-to-get-financial-aid/5430078/

JUL 30, 2019
- ABC 7 Chicago; WLS-TV

Wealthy suburban parents in the Chicago area are using a legal loophole in order to get their children more need-based financial aid, according to a report by ProPublica Illinois.

The report discovered dozens or more cases where parents hired lawyers to petition the court to turn over guardianship to a friend or relative so the student could be declared financially independent and qualify for financial aid.


ProPublica Illinois reporter Jody Cohen said she sifted through 1,800 probate petitions from 2018 and 2019, but more than 40 guardianship petitions stood out to her.

They were formal petitions filed by lawyers on behalf of well-to-do parents who were, for example, doctors and real estate agents in suburbs like Buffalo Grove and Deerfield, giving up custody of their kids during their junior or senior year of high school. 

In response, the Department of Education is suggesting changes be made to close the loop hole.

It's adding language that says if a student enters into a legal guardianship, but continues to receive financial and medical support from their parents, they are still a dependent student.

While the practice of doing this is a loophole, it is not illegal. But it sparks an ethical problem if financial aid is limited and takes away from a potential student with a real need.

Kyle Westbrook leads the Partnership for College Completion, an advocacy organization for improving college outcomes for low income students.

"We think of it as hundreds of thousands of dollars that should have gone to low-income students and likely the difference between some students going to college and not going," said Westbrook.

Last year, more than 80,000 students who were eligible didn't get the aid because the money ran out.

For low income students that could mean the decision not to go to college.

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Why Wealthy Parents Are Giving Up Custody of Their Kids - YouTube

Wealthy suburban parents in the Chicago area are using a legal loophole in order to get their children more need-based financial aid, according to a report b...

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Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning Economic Development Committees met March 25

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https://chicagocitywire.com/stories/512777979-chicago-metropolitan-agency-for-planning-economic-development-committees-met-march-25#

JUL 22, 2019​
- Chicago City Wire

None of the Chicago-area four-year public universities, as of 2016, has been able to graduate more than half of their Black and Latinx students.

The Partnership for College Completion shared this and other findings in a report released Thursday based on a regional study of college enrollment and graduation rates for slow-income and minority students in and around Chicago.

The seven-county Chicago area is home to 54 schools – including public, private, non-profit two- and four- year institutions – which enroll 319,000 undergraduates.

"One of our goals as an organization and in our work is, number one, lifting up data, research and information to really highlight the college completion crisis in the state of Illinois, and that reflects a broader college-completion crisis across the country," said Lisa Castillo Richmond, the managing director of the Partnership for College Completion. "We want to drive action."

While many reports explore national trends in college enrollment and completion, this report is unique in its local focus, analyzing data county by county.

"We're really interested in hyper-localizing issues of reform," said Kyle Westbrook, the executive director of Partnership for College Completion. "We do feel really strongly that most of the changes that we need to see happen will happen at the state and local level, where folks are closer to the issues, closer to the solutions and closer to our students."

Based on data from financial-aid applicants in the region, among other sources, the study found that a large number of students from the Chicago area are leaving the state for college, or debating whether to attend college at all because of affordability concerns.

Out of 70,000 local applicants who apply each year, only 2,600 students of color graduated in the Chicago area in 2017. While White applicants complete college within six years at a rate of 68 percent, low-income Black and FAFSA filers have six-year completion rates at 30 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

Westbrook said state legislators are concerned about enrollment. Applications at public universities in the Chicago area increased by only half the rate of the national average between 2011 and 2016.

But they've been so focused on addressing out-migration – students leaving the Chicago area for college – that they've ignored local students struggling to afford Chicago schools. FAFSA filers with the least financial need were three times more likely to leave the state for college. White students were the most likely to leave the state for college, while Latinx students were least likely.

"There's a pool of students and a pool of talent in this state that aren't just going out of state for college," Westbrook said. "They're not going to attend at all. We're leaving a lot of talent on the table because of the state's slow and steady disinvestment in higher education."

The report describes a lack of funding for Monetary Award Program grants, the state's financial aid system for low-income students. The study found that nearly 60,000 eligible students apply for these awards and don't receive them because there isn't enough aid to go around. Grants also cover fewer costs.

The program used to fully cover a student's attendance costs. Now, it covers only two-thirds of the cost of attendance at community colleges and one-third of the cost at public universities.

The report recommends a series of policy changes at the college and state level based on the study's findings. It encourages institutions to weigh GPAs more heavily than standardized test scores in admissions, since prioritizing scores puts low-income students and students of color with less test preparation resources at a disadvantage.

The study found that 58 percent of African-American financial aid applicants and 41 percent of Latino students scored in the lowest ACT category. The report calls on the state to fully fund all eligible MAP applicants and direct funds away from for-profits, which account for 34 percent of student loan debt while serving only 8 percent of Illinois' college students.

To push some of its policy goals forward, the Partnership for College Completion started the Illinois Equity in Attainment initiative, a coalition of 27 Chicago-area higher learning institutions that have committed to create equity plans with the organization's help. The group meets twice a year to discuss shared problems and work on setting benchmarks.

Richmond finds the initiative a reason for hope.

"They're taking a deep look internally at how they're organized and who they're supporting and how," she said.

At the state level, there have been promising changes, as well. This year, the state allocated another $50 million to MAP grants, praised in the report as a step in the right direction.

"We are optimistic but we also don't think it's time to take the goal posts down and pat ourselves on the back," Westbrook said. "We're at the very beginning of what we hope will be a long-term investment in resources and attention to the equity issues that our state faces."

Sara Weissman can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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