Volume Nine: Dude, Where are my IN-State schools?

Why are Illinois students more likely to leave the state for education in 2019.


The Issue

On January 14, 2019, J.B. Pritzker will be sworn in as the next governor of the state of Illinois, and will be tasked with solving a number of issues. One of the more overlooked issues facing the state of Illinois right now, in my opinion, is the number of high school students leaving the state for higher education.


While not all Illinois colleges are state schools, according to Crain's Chicago Business, the number of high school seniors leaving Illinois is 1/3, or about 35,445 in the year 2016, up from 20,507 from the year 2000. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the state of Illinois had the worst "outmigration" rate of any state since 2014. And if you live in Illinois, you have at least heard the rumors.


"Eastern Illinois is going to be closing at any time."


The SIU versus SIUE funding fight.


Just to name a few. There are plenty of state schools struggling to stay above water, and with more students leaving than ever before, it will get harder for state schools to maintain operating, or at the very least, operating at a reasonable price level. And that isn't necessarily their fault.


According to BetterGov.org, "as of June 27, 2017, Illinois’ bill backlog was $14.72 billion. That’s $14.72 billion IOUs owed to Illinoisans and others."


Illinois already owes 14.72 billion to state residents without factoring in what it owes state universities per year, painting a pretty clear picture of how underfunded these universities are, and why they would be struggling to pay students to stay in state.



The Numbers

"Universities in other states strategically come to Illinois to recruit our best and brightest students," says Eric Lichtenberger, deputy director for information management and research at the IBHE.

Chicago is the 3rd largest city in the country, and has become a breeding ground for young students who have no schools to go to in-state, so they get poached by out of state schools looking to meet quotas. It would seem too, that Chicago is actually an accurate representation of the entire state of Illinois, for maybe the first time ever.


Not all college students leaving Illinois are coming from Chicago, and at the rates they are leaving, it is more than just Chicagoans who are feeling the pinch of state budgets on their future college decisions.



While it may seem safe to say, at least early on, that you could really go to any school that you want in Illinois, you have to consider the outside factors which may make it "impossible" to attend certain state institutions, as any college student does before making their own choice on attending a university.


Here are some quick numbers on the twelve state run universities:


Chicago State University

Location: Chicago

Enrollment: 3,437 (2015-16)

Cost: Average cost after aid $12,000

Acceptance Rate: 21%

Graduation Rate: 19%


Eastern Illinois University

Location: Charleston

Enrollment: 7,063 (2015-16)

Cost: Average cost after aid $16,000

Acceptance Rate: 50%

Graduation Rate: 59%


Governors State University

Location: Park

Enrollment: 3,526 (2015-16)

Cost: Average cost after aid $18,000

Acceptance Rate: 39%

Graduation Rate: 54%


Illinois State University

Location: Normal

Enrollment:18,343 (2015-16)

Cost: Average cost after aid $20,000

Acceptance Rate: 88%

Graduation Rate: 72%


Northeastern Illinois University

Location: Chicago

Enrollment: 7,979 (2015-16)

Cost: Average cost after aid $16,000

Acceptance Rate: 67%

Graduation Rate: 22%


Northern Illinois University

Location: Dekalb

Enrollment: 20,015 (2015-16)

Cost: In-state - $28,848 Out-of-State - $38,314

Acceptance Rate: 50.3%

Graduation Rate: 49.6%


Southern Illinois University System

- Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Location: Carbondale

Enrollment: 12,858 (2015-16)

Cost: Average cost after aid $16,000

Acceptance Rate: 81%

Graduation Rate: 44%


- Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Location: Edwardsville

Enrollment: 11,717 (2015-16)

Cost: Average cost after aid $17,000

Acceptance Rate: 88%

Graduation Rate: 51%


University of Illinois system

- University of Illinois at Chicago

Location: Chicago

Enrollment: 17,368 (2015-16)

Cost: Average cost after aid $14,000

Acceptance Rate: 77%

Graduation Rate: 60%


- University of Illinois at Springfield

Location: Springfield

Enrollment: 2,857 (2015-16)

Cost: Average cost after aid $13,000

Acceptance Rate: 63%

Graduation Rate: 64%


- University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

Location: Urbana-Champaign

Enrollment: 32,170 (2015-16)

Cost: Average cost after aid $18,000

Acceptance Rate: 66%

Graduation Rate: 84%


Western Illinois University

Location: Macomb

Enrollment: 9,141 (2015-16)

Cost: Average cost after aid $17,000

Acceptance Rate: 60%

Graduation Rate: 54%


Looking at all the schools on this list, which according to the heavily trustworthy wikipedia, is the entire list of Illinois public colleges, you can find some average numbers that may seem scary.


An average acceptance rate of 62.5%.


An average graduation rate of 58.05%


Average tuition cost of $17,500 and that's assuming you get financial aid.


And even if you do get a scholarship, it doesn't always mean the money is there. So while a student may be granted a scholarship for say, $15,000 a year, what you're a more likely seeing is the state promising more money to schools, without ever actually paying them the tuition money promised through scholarships and grants.


Similar to healthcare in Illinois, the state is promising money that it doesn't have, or that is already allocated elsewhere, creating a higher level of debt, and making it harder and harder for institutions who are basically offering free education to some of it's students.


But to get this money promised in the first place, you have to be well educated from high school and grade school, another major issue in the state of Illinois, that once again, centers around a lack of funding. Thank god Bruce Rauner used the budget impasses to "fight for reform".


The state of Illinois has a huge problem, one that obviously starts well before kids hit college.



The System

The inability to adequately prepare students for college has certainly led to bad numbers both in acceptance rate and graduation rate. While it may not be the grade school and high schools responsibility to get kids through graduation, it is their job to get them into college, and that seems like it is only getting harder for young kids in state.


This does not come as a shot at educators, but rather another complaint about the state of Illinois' education system, which continues to be shrinking its education budget, trying to tackle financial issues that have buried the state for years now.


Illinois is less willing to offer students money to get to college, but they are certainly very willing to take it from you once you get there.


It is supposed to be that being in-state offered a reward in terms of tuition, but anymore, its becoming less relevant to stay in Illinois for school because of the lack in support. Remember that whole "tuition average with aid"?


"Melissa Correa, an 18-year-old at Maine South High School in Park Ridge, says she committed to the University of Iowa in Iowa City for college next year because she liked the idea of a Big Ten school in a smaller community. But she thought it was also the best overall option for a nursing degree when the school offered $27,000 in aid toward the first year's $31,000 tuition, she says. Plus, if she stays in Iowa next summer, she'll be eligible for the lower in-state tuition the following year."

A senior in Illinois can go out of state to Iowa, paying $4,000 dollars for her first year of tuition and then receives another discount for being in state over the summer, encouraging more young people to set up roots in a state like Iowa. Wonder why people in general are leaving Illinois? Maybe its because their adult lives start by receiving better college benefits out of state, prompting them to connect with those areas and relocate while they are young.


"Costs were also a key part of the calculus for Nwankpa, who works downtown at Foot Action. With his Posse Foundation scholarship, he wanted the best college experience for the least amount of money. The $200,000 in aid offered by Cornell over four years easily outdid a full-ride scholarship from DePaul University and $40,000 over four years from U of I, he says."\

Cornell, a prestigious institution, offered an extra $80,000 dollars to a high school student who was clearly more than qualified to attend the University of Illinois. Why does Illinois keep being outbid on kids like this? Look now further than the state capital and the former governor, Bruce Rauner.


After a budget impasse in late 2017-early 2018, funding and confidence in state run schools is making it more realistic and all around safer to go out of state. While this lack of confidence in state run institutions is not directly their fault, it has impacted them directly:


"Ella Wischnewsky, a 17-year-old senior at Whitney Young Magnet High School, will likely leave the state to study public health or public policy, even though she was accepted at U of I. "U of I used to be the cheap school, but that's kind of less true now," she says. "It will probably cost a little less, but not much." Plus, she doesn't want to worry about how the state's budget stress might affect the school, she says."

The issue with the states education system is a very complicated one, but it offers an opportunity for J.B. Pritzker to bring Illinois back to prosperity. Improving the education of college students has become a very lucrative business, and if Illinois' public universities can find a way to keep these students in state, even at a discount, they are making more money than they are now.


But that is only a temporary fix.


"Leaving the state would probably give me more job opportunities in different places," Wischnewsky says, noting she hopes to move back to Chicago at some point.

While it isn't surprising to hear someone say that they feel like job prospects would be better outside of Illinois, it is surprising to hear someone say they would like to move back into the state with an education. And unfortunately, with the direction Illinois is heading, their may not be tons of job opportunities for students to come back too.


The Bruce Rauner Budget Impasse "for Reform"

As I have alluded too already in this article, one of the current biggest set backs in education has been Bruce Rauner's so called budget impasse "for reform". According to the Illinois Comptroller's office:

"Portions of Illinois’ budget were appropriated during the impasse, including amounts forelementary and secondary education, some federal funds, transportation construction projects, limited state agency operations, and higher education and social services in fiscal year 2017’sagreed “bridge” funding plan."

But before we dive deeper, here's the crash course on Bruce Rauner: a democrat cross-dressing as a republican. How could that not work? Bruce Rauner was a major Republican success, ousting the Democrats in one of their stronghold states.


That was about the only positive Bruce Rauner brought to the Republican party in the state of Illinois. Rauner on multiple occasions acted in ways that benefitted Democrats, such as his signature on a bill in 2017 that increased taxpayer subsidies for abortions, or his push to increase taxes, as seen the video at the top of this article.


And then Rauner stunned probably no one when he stopped funding for the entire state for a two year period, while he campaigned for his agenda, "the turnaround agenda", which included items he wanted on the budget for 2016. And so, state agencies went unfunded, fell approximately 2.5 billion short in appropriations.


The long and the short is a politician played a game with the state agenda, now we are even farther in debt and left with a much more uncertain financial future, especially for the institutions of higher education. Institutions that need money like that to offer more attractive scholarship opportunities that would hopefully bring more students back to the state.



The Solution

Governor Prizker is now tasked with not only finding a way to keep college students in Illinois, but finding a way to create more jobs in Illinois for college graduates. If there isn't a bright post graduate future in Illinois, why start your career by setting up connections there when more advantageous opportunities can be found in every surrounding state.


Governor Pritzker must also find a way to grow trust in the office of Governor in Illinois, maybe the most monumental task of all.But, it would stand to reason that young college students pose an increase to the work force Illinois, due in large part to talented young students who would be coming out of college well educated.


Couple that with the number of jobs that would be created in the education sector if Illinois began seeing an increase in college enrollment, and it is easy to see how jobs might come back right away.


At least in a perfect world.


Long term, improving public perception of Illinois and the education system it runs would help to bring in more out of state students, and more businesses willing to invest in the young talent growing in the state. But this all isn't as simple as it sounds.


While solutions don't seem to be obvious in any one direction, one thing is clear:

Illinois needs to start investing in young people to help turn the state around.

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