higher education

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University saw a slight increase in enrollment this fall.

 

Total enrollment at NIU climbed to 16,769 students. That’s only a 1% gain from last year, but it’s the first increase since 2009

Illinois Board of Higher Education

Black and Latinx college students in Illinois aren’t as successful as their white peers. That’s according to a new state report.

Ginger Ostro is the executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Her message on the results of the equity report was clear.

“In nearly every measure, we are failing our African American students,” she said

The report says there are significant disparities in everything from enrollment, retention and completion to post-college earnings.

niu.edu

As COVID-19 started shutting down international travel in March, students from Northern Illinois University studying abroad had to be rushed back home.

Anne Seitzinger said she knows it was devastating for them. She’s the director of the study abroad office at NIU.  

Months later, her staff is still helping them deal with the consequences of the abrupt change in plans.

“They're trying to get refunds for the students, and most of them have been able to do that,” she said. “And the ones that haven't been able to tell us about refunds yet, it's sounding positive.”

NIU Athletics

College athletes are returning to campuses across the country.

Voluntary workouts are underway for football and basketball players at Northern Illinois University.  And the NCAA has approved plans to begin official preseason practices later this summer.

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.

NIU No Longer Looking At SAT & ACT Scores

Jan 30, 2020
Susan Stephens

Students applying to Northern Illinois University with a 3.0 grade point average or higher will soon be automatically admitted.

Other universities, including Western Illinois University, have already adopted test-optional policies.

NIU is the first public university in the state to go completely test blind starting fall 2021.

The university will no longer look at SAT and ACT scores for admission as well as merit scholarships.

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.

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.

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