Illinois’ public colleges and universities should be debt-free for students from low-income families and affordable for all Illinoisans.

Ensuring every student can afford college is essential to improving enrollment in Illinois colleges and universities and keeping more students in the state. However, the path to affordability is especially steep in Illinois, as costs have been shifted from the state to students over the last 20 years. Between 2002 and 2018, funding for Illinois public universities was cut by over 50% and community colleges experienced similar disinvestment.  This has effectively priced out of Illinois’ public universities its low-income students and students of color most of all.

The path toward affordable higher education is clear: Illinois needs to better fund institutions, student aid, and bring students back to college to complete their degrees.

Equitably reinvesting in Illinois’ institutions of higher education means committing to fully fund the Monetary Award Program (MAP), targeting supports to re-engage the more than 1.7 million adults in Illinois with some college and no degree, and providing financial support to students that go beyond tuition and fees. This can lead institutions to pull out of enrollment spirals and help keep Illinois students at in-state colleges and universities. Further, when combined with student-centered supports, persistence and graduation rates could rise, particularly for students from low-income families, preparing more qualified and diverse graduates for entry in Illinois’ workforce every year.

Strategies to improve college affordability

  1. Increase investment in MAP
  2. Equitably invest in colleges and universities
  3. Expand access to basic needs support
  4. Target financial support to reengage adult learners
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