Students of all races, economic backgrounds, and geographic locations deserve access to high-quality postsecondary education that is aligned with their educational and career aspirations.

In Illinois, access to higher education is stratified by race and income. Selective colleges and universities, which have more resources, higher completion rates, transfer rates, and post-graduation incomes) are often unrepresentative of the state’s population of low-income students and students of color. Meanwhile, students of color and rural students are overrepresented in for-profit colleges, which have the highest costs, often leaving students with mountains of debt and a degree that might not help them pay it off.

Equitable access to higher education extends beyond getting into college, as even within institutions students often have different opportunities depending on race and income, which are evident in graduation rate disparities at many colleges. It’s also shown in how Black, Latinx, and low-income students are disproportionately placed into non-credit-bearing traditional developmental education courses which act as which currently act as barriers for many of Illinois’ underrepresented student groups.

The first step in restoring higher education’s potential for socioeconomic mobility is to eliminate disparities in access to a college education for the state’s low-income students and students of color.

Recommendations to make Illinois higher education more accessible

Making college more affordable will improve equitable college access. However, to provide more low-income students, first generation college students, and students of color real access to a postsecondary education, institutions must implement more inclusive admissions and transfer processes and scale effective models of developmental education – which currently act as a barrier to access to college-level coursework for many of Illinois’ underrepresented student groups.

Additionally, Illinois’ higher education funding systems must be designed to adequately fund institutions currently serving Illinois’ low-income students and underrepresented student groups and incentivize institutions to serve a student body that reflects the state’s demographics.

Strategies to improve equity in college access

  1. Scale Effective Developmental Education Reforms
  2. Advance Equitable Institutional Funding
  3. Improve Equity in Transfer Systems
  4. Implement More Equitable College Admissions Processes

See what the PCC is doing to support Developmental Reform Education Reform Act (DERA) implementation and capacity building in the state of Illinois.

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