higher education

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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.

Peter Medlin

About a mile away from Northern Illinois University’s campus in DeKalb, a nice 2-story house on the corner of Woodlawn Drive is vacant. The only sign of wear in sight is on a small metal sign in the freshly cut yard where the address is slowly rusting away. 

Built in 1955, this house has been home to the presidents of NIU. But, when Dr. Lisa Freeman was hired last year, she already had a home in DeKalb.

What happens when universities see enrollment plunge year after year? For many Illinois schools, they focus on how to hold on to the students already walking their halls. Students often leave between their first and second year.

State university officials were grilled by lawmakers Tuesday. At issue is a record of lucrative severance packages for outgoing administrators.


Report Highlights Higher Ed Inequity In Chicagoland

Jul 17, 2019
Photo by Spencer Tritt

Even with Chicagoland students in the same income range, white students have a much greater chance of getting a degree than students of color.

That’s according to a new report from the non-profit Partnership for College Completion. The group just released a report highlighting college access and success disparities in northern Illinois.

It finds gaps exist regardless of academics and have more to do with race and family income levels.

Members of the Illinois Board of Higher Education are satisfied with how higher ed fared in the new state budget passed by Illinois lawmakers.

For several years, Illinois higher ed officials have been fighting their way out of the hole dug during the two-year budget impasse.

But they say the budget, passed by the General Assembly, is a big improvement. Nyle Robinson is the Higher Education Board’s Interim Executive Director.

“...major steps in repairing the damage," he said. "In fact, this is arguably the best session for higher education in a generation."

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.

It’s been a rough couple of years for Illinois community colleges, from the slashed funds of the budget impasse to concerning enrollment declines. This is the final installment of a three-part series on how these very different schools have stayed afloat by embracing change and, more importantly, putting the "community" in community college.

 

The Kishwaukee table tennis club's practice is in full swing. They're preparing for a tournament coming up soon.

 

It’s been a rough couple of years for Illinois community colleges, from the slashed funds of the budget impasse to concerning enrollment declines. We begin a three-part series on how these very different schools have stayed afloat by embracing change and, more importantly, putting the "community" in community college.

 

It’s been a rough couple of years for Illinois community colleges, from the slashed funds of the budget impasse to concerning enrollment declines. This is part two in a three-part series on how these very different schools have stayed afloat by embracing change and, more importantly, putting the community in community college.

 

The state's budget impasse soon may affect more than just overall funding for higher education.

The Higher Learning Commission, which accredits schools in the Midwest, recently sent a letter to state lawmakers and the governor  urging them to pass a budget. The HLC says that, without state funding, Illinois universities are at risk of losing their accreditation. SIU President Randy Dunn said that could be catastrophic.

Jessie Schlacks / WNIJ

Enrollment at many Illinois public universities has declined in the past decade. This coincides with the state approaching two years without a full spending plan. As a result, college-bound students have tough decisions to make.

iit.edu

About 200 students protested in the Illinois Capitol rotunda Wednesday.  They’re part of the Illinois Coalition to Invest in Higher Education.

The group wanted to show lawmakers the importance of funding colleges and universities, as well as MAP grants for students.  

One of the protestors was Kiasee Ray,  a freshman at Dominican University in River Forest. She says the MAP grant is the reason she's in college today.

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

A preliminary report on college enrollment in Illinois shows a decline at all sectors of higher education.

All three categories -- public universities, community colleges and private colleges — showed an overall drop in enrollment, according to a report from the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Illinois State University and the three University of Illinois campuses showed slight increases; all other public schools declined by an average of almost 3 percent compared to last year.   

"Money" By Flickr User Pictures of Money / (CC BY 2.0)

The Illinois Board of Higher Education has authorized $17 million in emergency funding to help three financially strapped state universities through the end of the year.

The Chicago Tribune reports the board approved the measure unanimously on Wednesday. Under the agreement, Western Illinois University gets $8.4 million, Eastern Illinois University receives about $5.6 million, and Chicago State University gets around $3 million.

The funding can be used only to pay down costs incurred this year.

Jessie Schlacks / WNIJ

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission reports a drop in submitted financial aid applications compared to 2015, but also says it may be too soon to tell.

That’s because the FAFSA filing period for next school year opened early on Oct. 1, rather than January.

Those who apply will use their 2015 tax information and will not need to update it with their 2016 taxes.

Community colleges in Illinois say they've cut frills, suspended travel, and even laid off teachers. Now, they need state lawmakers to come through with funding.

That was the gist of a letter sent last week from the Illinois Council of Community College Presidents​ to the governor and legislative leaders.

So far, they say they’ve gotten zero response. Tom Ramage, president of both the council and Parkland College, says there’s little left to cut.

State of Illinois

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed legislation Friday that would have given nearly $4 billion to higher education and human services providers. The governor called the measure "an empty promise."

The legislation would have paid for substance abuse treatment, autism programs and homelessness prevention. It also included full funding for colleges, universities and tuition waivers for low-income students. 

Illinois Democrats have approved a measure to fully fund tuition grants for low-income students despite Republican concerns the state can't pay for its promises.

The Senate approved the measure Thursday on a 39-15 vote. The bill goes to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner next.

The measure sponsored by Democratic leaders House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton would appropriate about $397 million to colleges and universities for tuition grants under the Monetary Assistance Program.

The plan doesn't include funding for colleges' operational costs.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

A $454 million bill to increase funding for financially struggling Illinois colleges and universities has cleared the state Senate.

Lawmakers approved the bill on a near unanimous vote and sent the measure to the House on Thursday.

Democrats who control the Legislature and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner have been unable to agree on a budget since July 1, and higher education institutions have been forced to lay off staff.

Last month, lawmakers used $600 million left over in an education fund to help colleges make it through the summer.

Students living illegally in the U.S. who struggle to pay for college because they don't qualify for financial aid are urging Illinois lawmakers to make them eligible for state help.

    

Legislation that passed the state Senate this month with bipartisan support would make Illinois among the few states in the country that let immigrant students get financial aid regardless of their legal status.

The measure is awaiting action in the Illinois House.

MAP Grants On Their Way To Illinois Universities

Apr 28, 2016
Jenna Dooley

Illinois' Comptroller says universities will soon receive stopgap MAP grant money.

Leslie Munger says the Illinois Student Assistance Commission sent $164 million dollars in grant vouchers to her office. 

Munger says her office turned around the payments immediately, but she also calls on lawmakers to approve a long-term solution.

“It is critical that they now finish the job and pass a comprehensive balanced budget that allows us to keep our promises not only to students,” Munger said in a news release.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

Governor Bruce Rauner today is approving a compromise between Republicans and Democrats that sends emergency money to public universities.

    

But that compromise doesn’t mean the two parties are getting along any better.

This state money is coming just as Chicago State University had said it would close its doors Friday.

The top House Republican Jim Durkin says it took Chicago State’s closing to get Democrats and House Speaker Michael Madigan to quit playing games.

Illinois college students will march for higher education funding and MAP grants in Springfield next week.

At least 60 students plan to take part in the march. That’s according to the march’s Facebook event.

The “March for MAP” was created by a University of Illinois Springfield student. The event was inspired by the legislature's failure to override Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto to a bill to fund MAP grants.

Many Illinois community colleges and universities will not cover low-income tuition waivers in the fall, unless they get state money.

    

That's the message from higher education leaders to the state's 125,000 students who are eligible for the monetary assistance program, or MAP, grants.

Public colleges and universities that have so far covered the cost for MAP students are sounding the alarm that they may not continue.

Higher Education Leaders Discuss Budget Fears In Springfield

Mar 10, 2016
State of Illinois

Illinois lawmakers heard Thursday from an assortment of higher education leaders asking for funding.

They used terms like “starving,” “dismantling” and “economic suicide” as they tried to persuade state senators to find some way to heal the budget impasse. 

One of the last witnesses was Eric Zarnikow, director of the state agency that runs the Monetary Award Program. MAP grants help needy college kids with tuition.

Zarnikow quoted his mother, who he says always warned him not to eat the seed corn.

WIUM

Higher education continues to be caught in Illinois lawmakers' political crossfire.

And not just because the House failed to override a veto of legislation that would have allowed at least SOME funding for the first time in eight months.

Lawmakers spent most of yesterday debating how to pay for Illinois' colleges and universities --- with nothing material to show for it by the time they'd adjourned.

Then, once the Capitol cleared out, an evening email from House Speaker Michael Madigan's spokesman, Steve Brown announcing a "new compromise effort."

Illinois Board of Higher Education

The budget that Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed this week recommends a 16 percent cut to higher education. This year's proposed cut sounds gentler than the 32 percent reduction Rauner recommended last year. But instead of being spread across higher education, virtually all of the pain would fall upon the state's universities. 

These proposed reductions come after higher education has gone without state funding of any kind for more than seven months.

A group of Democratic lawmakers yesterday made a public ceremony out of delivering legislation to Gov. Bruce Rauner's office.

    

They're attempting to persuade him to fund MAP grants, which help low-income students cover tuition at Illinois colleges and universities.

Students and employees from several colleges applauded as State Senator Donne Trotter marched into Rauner's office.

Allen Miggins, an admissions counselor from MacMurray College in Jacksonville, said the ongoing budget impasse is making his job difficult on many levels.

College of DuPage

College campuses (and the politics behind them) are taking center stage in Springfield's festering stalemate.

Budget gridlock has kept money from going to higher education since July. Then, in a matter of hours on Thursday, Democratic lawmakers approved a plan that would pump $720 million dollars into the system. 

Republicans are calling it a "cruel hoax" that's giving students false hope, even though they, too, say they want to help higher ed. It's a scenario that demonstrates the partisan tensions -- and politics -- at play.

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