With poverty rates in Illinois increasing and postsecondary attainment more important than ever, a new report from the Partnership for College Completion reveals low completion rates, persistent achievement gaps between groups, and highlights how the rising cost of college combined with state budget cuts has put college diplomas farther out of reach for low-income students and students of color.

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Entitled “Unequal Opportunity in Illinois: A Look at Who Graduates College and Why It Matters,” the report is a meta-analysis that draws from public data and published studies to highlight trends that have broad implications in Illinois, where nearly half of high school graduates are low-income and over 40 percent are black or Latino. The data paints a grim picture of the achievement gaps between rich and poor.

Key findings include:

  • From 2011 to 2015, African American undergraduate enrollment in public institutions dropped 25 percent.
  • While college enrollment among underrepresented groups has increased nearly ten percentage points in the last ten years, only 37 percent of low-income students graduate in six years, compared to 75 percent of their wealthier peers.
  • In Illinois, tuition and fees for public universities are 5th highest in the nation.
  • Illinois is one of only four states that cut funding of higher education over the last two fiscal years.

PCC’s efforts are focused on policy and practice solutions to the ongoing crisis of low college completion rates, persistent achievement gaps that exist along racial and socioeconomic lines, and college affordability. Moving forward, we will be discussing these and the myriad issues young people face on their road to college completion.

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