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Pixabay

In Illinois, public college and university students and their guardians will soon have a better idea of how much they’ve borrowed -- and an estimate of how much they’ll be paying back per month.

That’s thanks to a state pilot program. The letters relay information on federal, private and institutional loans.

Bobbi Smith is the interim director of financial aid at Western Illinois University.

Spencer Tritt

It’s unclear what COVID-19’s full impact will be on colleges in the fall. Some are re-tooling schedules in case they need to move online.

And many students are changing their college plans because of the pandemic.

Cathy Cebulski is a counselor at DeKalb High School. She’s been communicating with her students over email since they moved to e-learning.

“If students were planning on going away to college thinking that Mom and Dad both had a job and they're both laid off right now, that certainly is a concern,” said Cebulski.

beloit.edu

Colleges and universities across the country are considering what summer and fall classes could look like if COVID-19 concerns carry on.

Beloit College officials already moved summer courses online, but knew they needed to be more proactive.

They met with faculty and decided to divide semesters into two condensed modules.

Eric Boynton is Provost and Dean of the College. He says it makes the College more flexible if the pandemic lingers.

Peter Medlin

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.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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.

Cole Freeman, Data visualization done in collaboration with the Department of Computer Science at Northern Illinois University

A few years ago, when he was going to Yorkville High School, Matt Pitstick saw college recruiters roaming his school who surprised him and made his friends laugh. They were recruiters from a university more than 700 miles away: the University of Alabama.

"I remember when I first saw it, we all just joked about it -- like 'Haha yeah, the University of Alabama,'" he said. "But then you look into it and it's like, 'You know what, maybe that's not a bad idea.'"

Low-income college students in Illinois got some good news today. The state's Monetary Award Program — which provides MAP grants to help pay for tuition — will be able to give more grants with more money, thanks to the largest appropriation in the fund’s history.

Lynne Baker, with the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, says the agency approved a new formula that will boost grants by an average of $220 and cover at least 6,700 more students.

Garrett Wise graduated from Northern Illinois University just over three years ago. As he strode across the stage and collected his Bachelor's degree in applied physics, he knew that, like most students, he accumulated student loan debt. He just didn't know how bad it was.

Every student who takes out federal student loans must complete so-called "exit counseling" after they graduate and before their first bill comes due. This is where Wise found out how much he'd pay per month and how much money the government expected him to make per year.

Pixabay

Illinois is offering a new tool for students and their parents to plan for college.

The tool is a website and app called ILCollege2Career. It takes data from Illinois universities and matches it with how likely someone is to find a job in a given field — and how much that job might pay.

It’s meant to be a one-stop shop for students looking for the perfect school for their major. The catch is that there’s only data on Illinois schools. It’s aimed at keeping homegrown students in-state. 

The state budget impasse could affect the accreditation of Illinois universities, which have seen deep cuts in state funding in the nearly three years lawmakers have failed to agree on a spending plan.

The Higher Learning Commission, which accredits schools in the Midwest, recently issued a letter cautioning lawmakers that a lack of funding places Illinois universities at risk of losing their accreditation.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale President Randy Dunn says losing accreditation could make it difficult to hire more staff.

Flickr user / alamosbasement "old school" (CC BY 2.0)

Employees at Illinois’ public colleges and universities could soon have to take a pay cut.

A new rule, pending before lawmakers, would allow schools to force up to 15 days off without pay. 

Jeff Brownfield is director of an association of civil service employees. He says the state budget impasse has left some schools in dire straits, and that they asked for this measure as an option to layoffs.

Community College Students Hurting In Budget Battle

Jan 25, 2016

Illinois community colleges students are caught up in a political battle between the Republican governor and Democratic legislators.

Rich Egger / WIUM/Illinois Public Radio

The state of Illinois has cut funding to higher education each year for more than a decade.  Those cuts, combined with declining enrollment, will cause some people to lose their jobs at Western Illinois University at the Macomb and Quad Cities campuses.

Kankakee Community College

Many public Illinois colleges and universities are hard-hit by the budget stalemate. The state isn’t mandated to fund higher education the way it must pay for kindergarten through high school.

Kankakee Community College made cuts earlier in the year due to a continued decline in enrollment. Officials cut down on its award-winning sustainability program and decided to stop operating its public radio station.

College Textbooks Could Soon Get A Lot Cheaper

Oct 12, 2015
WVIK

College students could soon save thousands of dollars each year on textbooks. Illinois US Senator Dick Durbin and Senator Al Franken, from Minnesota, are proposing a bill so colleges and universities can provide more textbooks online for free.

Franken says the cost of textbooks has risen 82-percent over the last decade, and the average student spends over $1,200 on books each year. And, textbooks are one of the most "overlooked costs" when it comes to college affordability.

Bright Directions

The state of Illinois is reducing fees on its Bright Directions 529 college savings plan. It’s meant to help families put more of their investment toward rising tuition costs. 

According to the state treasurer's office, the change eliminates a setup fee and quarterly maintenance fee, and cuts management fees by almost half. Officials say more than 100,000 accounts will benefit from the new terms, saving investors nearly $3.6 million annually.

Illinois Board of Higher Education

As the Illinois budget stalemate continues, universities and community colleges are already feeling the pain.

Last anybody heard, Gov. Bruce Rauner wanted to cut higher education spending drastically, by more than 30 percent. But with the budget stalled in the legislature, colleges have no idea how much money they’ll get. 

James Applegate, director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, says this kind of chaos costs money. 

“This is an extremely inefficient way to run a shop,” Applegate said.

Illinois Board of Higher Education

New legislation could help give veterans a leg up in securing a contract with an Illinois university or college. 

The measure does not put restrictions on the vendors universities can choose. But it does require they report how much they spend on veteran owned businesses, as well as those run by minorities and women.

Dan Johnson, who represents the Federation of Women Contractors, says many institutions already have diversity goals for their procurement programs.

College Illinois Up and Running...Again

Oct 2, 2012
College Illinois

College Illinois is once again open for business. The state's troubled pre-paid tuition program had previously stopped selling contracts amid reports of financial mismanagement.

Selling back college textbooks can be frustrating

May 18, 2012
WNIJ

As college courses wrap up for the year, college students are trying to get the best prices for their used textbooks.  

Some textbooks will be updated, and students will not get a penny for those. Others may be damaged or missing portions.  Nothing for those either. 

Increasingly, students are going online to buy and sell or opting for a cheaper upfront cost for an electronic version of the course material.