Illinois higher education

Peter Medlin

A new report reflects on the long-term cost of cutting education funding during past recessions and how Illinois can learn from those mistakes during the COVID recession.

The Partnership for College Completion argues that recessions are a rare opportunity to make college access and cost more equitable.

Mike Abrahamson is the Partnership’s policy manager. He believes the future of Illinois’ economy depends on how Illinois devotes funding to education now, when dollars are scarce and there could be budget cuts for schools around the corner.

Every year, tens of thousands of Illinois college students who qualify and apply for a Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant receive nothing. The need-based aid is "first come, first-served" and the state runs out of money well short of meeting the demand.

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.