State undermines its future by shortchanging higher education funding

College students and their parents who rely on publicly funded grants to help pay for higher education had better get a jump on their paperwork this year.

The U.S. Department of Education began accepting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on Oct. 1 this year, three months earlier than previous years. All students who want financial aid need to complete the form, and students and parents will report 2015 income instead of the current year.

In the south suburbs and throughout Illinois, it’s a race to file the FAFSA. The form determines who receives money through the Monetary Award Program (MAP), which is administered by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC). There isn’t enough money for everyone who wants it, so funding is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Please be aware that, based on application volume and appropriated funds for any academic year, grant funding is likely to be depleted before all eligible applicants can be awarded,” ISAC says on its website. “When this occurs, ISAC will announce a suspension date.”

College students receiving MAP grants, state universities and community colleges rank among the hardest-hit casualties of the budget impasse between the Democratic-controlled Illinois General Assembly and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. The stalemate is taking a toll on higher education.

In September, Governors State University in University Park said it was closing two business and trade centers that have helped create thousands of jobs in the region. GSU President Elaine Maimon said the closures were “a result of the ongoing Illinois budget crisis.”

“We must reallocate the funds currently used to match federal and state dollars to departments which will maintain our high quality of student service,” Maimon said in a statement.

Joliet Junior College also closed its Small Business Development Center, citing the same budgetary pressures as GSU.

The six-month stopgap budget approved by the governor and legislature over the summer may have eased some of the urgency over funding essential state services, but uncertainty over higher education funding is negatively impacting enrollment.

Chicago State University reported last week that only 86 new students enrolled in its freshman class. This year’s total enrollment of 3,578 is less than half the 7,362 students who attended CSU in 2010, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Other state universities also reported significant declines in freshman enrollment this year. Eastern Illinois University in Charleston said its freshman class was 25 percent smaller than a year ago, and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale said it had 24 percent fewer freshmen.

National media have noted the trend. “Higher education in Illinois is dying,” the New York Times said in a headline in June. An August story headlined, “Competitive neighboring states poach Illinois college students,” by the Illinois News Network — a subsidiary of the Illinois Policy Institute — reported college students are fleeing Illinois for Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri and other states.

State universities and community colleges need stability. Program cuts and enrollment declines are just the latest indicators of how uncertainty over the state’s funding commitments is threatening the future of higher education in Illinois.

Institutions are stuck in a Catch-22. Their appeals to restore consistent state funding must be reserved, as any public statements might be used against them. Prospective students may choose to attend college elsewhere if state schools ring the alarm too vigorously.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education, chaired by former House Minority Leader Tom Cross, oversees planning, policy-making and finances at the state’s system of colleges and universities. James Applegate, executive director, writes a column — Applegate’s Update — in the IBHE Bulletin newsletter.

On Sept. 23, he published a piece that mentioned a goal of having 60 percent of the Illinois workforce holding a college credential by 2025. To achieve that goal, the state especially needs to support low-income students, he wrote.

“ISAC’s most recent data show how important the MAP program is to Illinois’ college completion goals, to the 128,000 students relying on MAP already in college, and to the hundreds of thousands of students going forward that will need MAP support to attend and complete college,” Applegate wrote.

“It behooves all of us to support continued funding for the MAP program that will allow these students to fulfill their college dreams and set Illinois on a course to meet its talent needs for a 21st century economy.”

Note the use of the word “behooves,” which by definition means appealing to moral and ethical duties and responsibilities.

Applegate works for the state, so it’s understandable if his criticism over state funding uncertainty is tempered. He can’t go biting the hand that feeds too hard. Others can be more blunt in their assessment of the state of higher education in Illinois.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities — a nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based think tank — says per-student funding for Illinois’ public colleges and universities is 54 percent below 2008 levels. Only one other state has cut higher education funding more than Illinois: Arizona (56 percent).

“Cuts to Illinois’ higher education system are making college less affordable and threatening the quality of education students receive at the state’s public four-year and community colleges,” CBPP says.

“Having a highly educated workforce is critical to our economic future, and we need a strong and high-quality higher education system to make that happen. Ensuring adequate investment in our state’s colleges and universities requires that policymakers make sound decisions about how to raise and use resources and avoid shortsighted tax cuts.”

I think it’s important to note that while the stopgap budget provided about $1 billion for higher education, state universities will only receive 82 percent to 90 percent of funding they received in 2015. Plus, the temporary budget is only good through Dec. 31 (except for K-12 education). Colleges and universities still face uncertainty in the middle of the current academic year.

Springfield seems to hate how funds used to pay for higher education are being spent on pensions instead of more directly benefiting students. Illinois needs pension reform, no doubt. I think it’s wrong to punish college students, undermine the goals of having a better-educated workforce and hinder future economic development by shortchanging higher education funding.

Twitter @tedslowik

State undermines its future by shortchanging higher education funding

Public university enrollment falls in Illinois, grows in Iowa – Quad City Times

Shelby Thede, an 18-year-old college freshman from Davenport, planned last May to attend Western Illinois University in Moline.

Then, she considered Illinois’ budget impasse, which has left many students uncertain about the state’s financial support for higher education.

As a result, Thede choose to attend Black Hawk College, Moline. The community college has seen an enrollment increase in 2016.

With some exceptions — primarily at the University of Illinois at Urbana and its campuses in Chicago and Springfield — enrollment is decreasing at the state’s four-year public institutions.

Western Illinois University in Macomb and Moline, Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Eastern Illinois University in Charleston and Southern Illinois University in Carbondale all have lost students in the last year. Declining percentages ranged from 5.5 percent (Northern) to 13 percent (Eastern).

On the other hand, Iowa’s three regents universities — Iowa State University in Ames, University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls and the University of Iowa in Iowa City — have grown in the number of students who attend the schools. Many of those students come from Illinois.

Students from Illinois increased in Ames and Cedar Falls, while the percentage remains steady at about 30 percent in Iowa City.

While there is no sense of students streaming out of Illinois, some clearly are choosing to attend college in other states, said Charles McBarron, communications director at the Illinois Education Association, Springfield. "That certainly is disturbing," he said.

"Our higher-education institutions in Illinois are crucially important, yet for years now, there is a slow de-funding of higher education that is causing lasting damage to the state," McBarron said.

McBarron, a graduate of Southern Illinois, noted his alma mater’s enrollment is down 7.5 percent in 2016. The trend has been developing over 20 years.

In the Quad-Cities, enrollment numbers vary, but the trends are up at the private Augustana College in Rock Island and at the community-college level.

St. Ambrose University in Davenport, also a private institution, does not yet have 2016 numbers, but enrollment decreased there from 2014 to 2015. In addition, the percentage of Illinois students at SAU dropped from 47.92 percent in 2011 to 46.39 percent in 2015.

The Augustana College campus is built for about 2,500 students, Kent Barnds, vice president of enrollment, said. In the early part of the century, the enrollment was about 2,150 students, and the university built a residence hall and added staffing to accommodate the growth.

Barnds said the university worked to increase diversity on the campus, and now 25 percent of the student population is from an ethnic or racial minority group.

“We are much more culturally diverse than before,” he said.

Community colleges are up slightly or at steady levels for enrollment.

Black Hawk College president Bettie Truitt said community colleges across the country saw increases about five years ago, as a reflection of the country’s recession.

"When unemployment numbers go high, our numbers increase," she said.

This year, Black Hawk is up 1.74 percent in enrollment, from 4,997 in 2015 to 5,084 in 2016. In 2011, during the recession, it was 5,834.

It was a similar experience for the Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, with institutions in Bettendorf, Clinton, Davenport and Muscatine.

The past two years have been essentially flat in enrollment at about 8,000, but the district had 9,800 students in 2011, Erin Snyder, director of enrollment management, said.

"That was the peak," she said. "We did see a lot of those students finish out with a certificate or diploma, and a lot of them have gotten great jobs and improved the local economy."

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via illinoiseducationassociation – Google News

September 30, 2016 at 09:38AM

Public university enrollment falls in Illinois, grows in Iowa – Quad City Times

MAP grant applicants may be affected by earlier FAFSA availability.


Daily Northwestern

MAP grant applicants may be affected by earlier FAFSA availability.


MAP grant applicants may be affected by earlier FAFSA availability.

Pembrook, Dunn discuss higher education

Join WSIE 88.7 FM on Sunday, October 2, at 9 a.m., as SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook, PhD, kicks off his Segue hosting career by welcoming SIU System President Randy Dunn to the booth. A conversation yielding a wealth of information, “the Randys” discuss role differences between chancellor and system president, and budgetary expectations for the 2016-17 academic year. They also delve into differences in the SIU System’s sister institutions, future initiatives for the SIU System, and why students, parents and staff should consider SIUE as a premier option for their higher education.  

Dunn started as president of the SIU System in May 2014. His prior administrative experiences include serving as Illinois state superintendent of education, president of Murray State University, president of Youngstown University and an administrator in Illinois school districts. Dunn also served as a professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he published and conducted research. 

The administrators explain that while the differences between chancellor and president can be confusing, the major difference is that SIU chancellors support campus initiatives, such as academic programs and student support services, while the system president takes charge of centralized “back-office operations” and services that support all system campuses, such as legal, internal auditing and technology transfer. Dunn shares that for the future, the SIU System hopes to undertake further services, such as procurement and compliance work, in order to avoid duplication of efforts.  

“In many ways, the system’s role is to support the work that each campus is doing,” Dunn says. 

When asked about budgetary expectations as the SIU System enters the 2016-17 academic year, Dunn jokingly states, “I can predict everything but the future.” He explains that the system will likely take one of four paths – one path being the completion of a state budget in January during the “lame duck session,” and the others being various plans on continuing “stop gap” budgetary efforts.

“As they say, ‘That is no way to run a railroad,’” Dunn says. “In the current situation, it’s almost impossible to do any planning beyond a month at a time. It puts many state universities into this limbo where it is very much ‘staying in stasis.’ 

“The good news is SIUE has a very good path. We carefully look at cash flows for all of the system campuses, and the ability of each to carry its own debt. The situation at SIUE is strong – in large part due to good stewardship by you [Chancellor Pembrook] and your predecessors, and solid enrollment growth for some number of years. 

“But we can’t get complacent. We have to watch carefully, and keep revenues and expenditures in line, in the event that we don’t see more state money for a while.”

As budgetary difficulties loom, many state citizens are anxious about the current condition of Illinois higher education, with many questioning the sustainability of institutions and academic programming over time. In response, Dunn emphatically states, “Come to SIU!” 

“We are not in existential crisis,” he shares. “While we are going to have careful budget navigation because the state is not fulfilling its support the way it should be, we’re not going to close our doors. 

“We’re going to stay in business and keep doing what we do. Does that mean we’re going to continue making cost reductions where we can? Yes. But we’re going to maintain academic programs, if appropriate. We are always adding new programs and omitting others to respond to what students and the marketplace want from us. 

“We will continue to provide student services. When you have 14,000+ students all gathered in one place, we’re going to provide counseling services and health services, and we’re going to provide career support to make sure they get jobs when they leave. 

“There are state-wide concerns from families on whether a major will continue at a university. We are required – morally, ethically and by our accreditor – to teach out every program. So, if a student starts in program X, and because enrollment is challenged or it’s difficult to maintain numbers or faculty, or just market forces change and nobody studies program X anymore, we must be responsive to that and make decisions accordingly. But we guarantee, every student admitted to program X or department X will earn that degree – that will not change. 

“These combined messages lead me to say, ‘Absolutely come to SIU! Whatever campus, whatever program – we’re going to be here. We have a way to navigate through this, and if you’re looking for a solid, high achieving, high performing state school, you need to be looking at SIU. We offer outstanding education at very reasonable rates, and we’re going to be here.”

Pembrook shares a recent story on how his higher education administration background provided unique information to a faculty in need, to which Dunn responds, “Having lived through that experience ourselves gives us sensitivity to people’s challenges and needs. We have goals to accomplish – not just our professors and staff, but even campus support services, such as grounds crew and food service. All of these units are invested in the mission we have. 

“When you’re in a human capital enterprise that you can relate with, you have a sensitivity for that professor trying to build a tenure record, for that first generation student who’s trying to figure out how to go to school because their parents maybe couldn’t guide them – they hadn’t had that experience. That type of “high touch” relationship – there’s value in that.”

They continue conversation by discussing similarities and differences between the SIU System campuses.

“Every institution has a different landscape,” Dunn explains. “From afar, the contours are very similar and there’s a commonality there. But when you look closely at each institution, they have a very unique and defined landscape. The challenge then becomes leadership, and having people work at institutions with the mindscape to match that landscape they’re in. That really is the art of leadership – being able to figure out that landscape and guide a university forward. 

“To say we see Carbondale as the research university and Edwardsville as the public service university – we’ve kind of gone away from that now. Actually, SIUE has a high research profile and is very successful in terms of research dollars generated as a public master’s, public comprehensive, and public regional institution. 

“Carbondale – which many think of as ‘the research institution,’ given the number of doctoral degrees and approximately $75 million annually in contract work – in many ways, by virtue of its geographic location, is still a large, regional school servicing the deep southern counties of Illinois. So, I get away from those qualifiers and different ways of thinking. 

“We’re SIU. We have slightly different focuses and missions, but in that, there’s more that makes us common than different.”

Discussion concludes with Dunn providing insight on future initiatives for the SIU System, including the development of a new SIU Board of Trustees strategic plan and the enhancement of shared system services. 

Tune in to WSIE 88.7 FM every Sunday at 9 a.m. as weekly guests discuss issues on SIUE’s campus.

By Logan Cameron / SIUE Marketing & Communications

© 2016 The Edwardsville Intelligencer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

via Pembrook, Dunn discuss higher education

September 30, 2016 at 04:35AM

Pembrook, Dunn discuss higher education

ISU working to continue increasing enrollment

Indiana State University freshman enrollment declined this fall, but admissions officials are striving to push numbers back up and say they’re already seeing some positive results.

“Our intention is to grow the enrollments back,” said John Beacon, ISU senior vice president for enrollment management, marketing and communication.

The university has already processed 6,161 applications from prospective fall 2017 freshmen, up 10 percent over the same day last year, and it has 2,200 admits, up 31 percent over the same day last year. “Those are good indicators we’re seeing some positive momentum,” said Richard Toomey, ISU associate vice president for enrollment management.

Beacon, Toomey and others who work to bring new students to campus spoke to ISU trustees Thursday during a seminar on freshmen recruitment.

About 90 percent of ISU students receive some form of financial aid. “Our students really rely on financial aid. Affordability is very important to them,” said Crystal Baker, director of student financial aid. Fifty percent of ISU students are Pell-eligible.

While ISU’s overall enrollment of 13,565 students this fall was the second-largest in school history, it’s freshman enrollment dropped 12 percent, with 2,448 freshmen this year, compared to 2,784 last year.

Beacon attributed the drop to a competitive market and affordability issues. “That has become a very critical issue for a lot of families across the country, not only our students,” he said.

Also, ISU packaged its financial aid differently and did not include PLUS loans, which are federal loans parents can use to help pay for college. Many students looked to them to meet the gap that other financial aid didn’t cover, but the problem was that a lot of families didn’t qualify. Without the loan, some students dropped out after the first semester of their freshman year because they couldn’t afford to attend.

“I think what we lost were students who figured out they couldn’t afford to attend ISU without a PLUS loan to help with finances,” Beacon said. But officials believe that freshman fall-to-winter retention will improve this year because those students will be in a better financial position to continue.

He noted that the top three reasons a student chooses a college are cost, academic programs and location, in that order. ISU draws most of its students from Marion and surrounding counties; the corridor between Indianapolis and Terre Haute; Lake County; and Evansville.

Presenters talked about a major change in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid they believe will help them in the recruiting process. For the 2017-18 application cycle, students will be able to submit a FAFSA earlier — starting Saturday. In prior years, FAFSA wasn’t available until Jan. 1.

Also, students/families will use earlier income information. Students applying for fall 2017 can use 2015 tax returns.

By enabling students to fill FAFSA out several months sooner, “this gives us an opportunity to communicate with students at an earlier stage, to walk them through the finances, and to walk them through other steps they need to keep in mind to be eligible for enrollment,” Toomey said.

ISU also is having success recruiting Illinois students, including academically accomplished students. The 2016 freshman honors class was the university’s second largest, and 25 percent of those students come from Illinois, said Sarah Wurtz, ISU scholarships director.

A new scholarship program seeks to attract even more Illinois students. The Illinois Achievement Scholarship is aimed at first-year students from Illinois with a 3.0 grade-point average or higher and financial need; it will provide $2,000 per year. In combination with the Illinois Student Scholarship, “It brings their tuition down to a level that is below the cost of any Illinois state institution,” Wurtz said.

The university also recognizes the importance of smart phones and social media to reach today’s high school students, said Santhana Naidu, communications and marketing.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

ISU working to continue increasing enrollment

Undocumented students benefit most from free City Colleges program

When city and school officials launched the Chicago Star Scholarship program back in 2014, they promised a free two-year college education to public school graduates who qualified for college but otherwise wouldn’t be able to pay for it.

Every Chicago Public Schools graduate who met the academic criteria would get free tuition, fees and books from City Colleges of Chicago. And unlike most of the growing number of free community college programs nationwide, Mayor Rahm Emanuel deliberately opened the Star Scholarship to undocumented students. Graduates of Chicago’s private schools will now also be eligible, following a recent City Council vote.

The Chicago Reporter obtained data from the first year of the program, which shows that more than half of the first group of Star Scholars — 647 of 1,139 students —did not receive the free ride because federal and state financial aid already covered their costs The Star Scholarship is a “last-dollar” scholarship, which means City Colleges only kicks in tuition costs for students who don’t get financial aid.

Among the remaining 492 students who did receive the free ride, close to 56 percent were undocumented immigrants. Few undocumented youth in Illinois end up attending college at all because they’re ineligible federal and state financial aid. “Boy, this has given so many of our students the opportunity to go to college when they wouldn’t be able to otherwise,” said Alan Mather, chief of college and career success for CPS.

Less than 5 percent of Chicago public high school students are likely undocumented.

Among the undocumented Star Scholars: Azalia Martinez, a 2015 Jones College Prep graduate who is now studying public health and social work at Daley College. Martinez said she “felt a sense of relief” when she got the scholarship. “I knew that my parents and I wouldn’t have to worry about paying for college the [first two years],” said Martinez, who is now saving up to transfer to a four-year university.

The high number of undocumented students may change the national conversation around free community college programs, said Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University in Philadelphia.

“I think it’s a feat. This is one of the biggest benefits of doing universal-style programs that don’t only focus on [whether you qualify for federal aid],” said Goldrick-Rab, whose research influenced the Obama administration’s free community college proposal. “I have been saying for a while, I think undocumented students could be enormous beneficiaries of free college programs.”

The other 44 percent of scholarship recipients were from families that earned too much to qualify for federal aid; most Pell Grant recipients have household incomes under $40,000. But that doesn’t mean those families don’t struggle to pay for college. “We know there’s a ton of evidence that there’s a lot of financial need going way up the income ladder,” Goldrick-Rab said. “Prices are so high now, that even making what seems to other folks like a reasonable income is still not enough money. And Chicago is an expensive place to live.”

The state’s higher education funding crisis, combined with what counselors describe as a growing aversion to debt, is pushing students from all economic backgrounds to start at a community college.

The Star Scholarship “has definitely become a big conversation and option for our kids,” said Karen Devine, lead counselor at Taft High School, which had 61 Star Scholars. More than a third did not qualify for financial aid because of family income.

The high numbers of undocumented and more middle-class students helps explain why the first year’s price tag was 50 percent more than expected: $3.3 million compared to an anticipated $2 million.

All 1,139 participants will get other benefits, including extra counseling and support to transfer to one of the 15 four-year universities that have agreed to take on Star Scholars who transfer from City Colleges.

Charts: Latino students disproportionately benefited from the City Colleges of Chicago’s Star Scholarship, including many who are undocumented.

Data from City Colleges of Chicago. Undocumented students are counted as those who filed a special alternative financial aid form instead of the traditional Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is off limits to undocumented immigrants.

Undocumented students benefit most from free City Colleges program

IWU has fewer new students but more diversity

BLOOMINGTON — Although Illinois Wesleyan University experienced a slight drop in new students and a decrease in overall enrollment this fall, President Eric Jensen said the school is in good shape.

He is particularly proud of the diversity of the incoming class.

About 22 percent of the incoming class are students of color, he said. “We’re pretty sure that’s the highest in our history.”

The university budgeted for 480 new students and it had 470 entering students this fall, according to Jensen. “We call that even,” he said.

Last year, there were 476 new students.

Total enrollment is 1,773, down from 1,842 last fall, but Jensen said the drop was mainly the result of a large graduating class in May.

“There’s a range of enrollment this place can comfortably hold,” said Jensen. “The numbers we are at — 1,750 to 1,800 — can work.”

Jensen said diversity is important for several reasons.

“We’re training leaders and leaders need to operate in a diverse world,” he said.

But it’s also a matter of “doing what’s right,” he said, noting that as a historically Methodist institution, part of IWU’s mission is to “extend opportunities” to others.

“I came in talking about enhancing diversity and we did it,” said Jensen, who became president in November. “It took a concerted effort.”

Seven percent of this year’s incoming students are African-American, compared to 2 percent last fall, and the percentage of Hispanic students is 10 percent, up from 7 percent a year ago, according to Jensen.

LeAnn Hughes begins work next week in the new position of vice president of enrollment and marketing.

Jensen said the new position will help by “unifying the message” coming from admissions and marketing administrators.

Among initiatives being developed at IWU is one aimed at having every senior complete a real-world project that demonstrates their competence in several areas.

The university also is joining a national college access and leadership development program called The Posse Foundation, which will help recruit high-achieving high school students from the New Orleans area.

Enrollment elsewhere

Meanwhile, Normal-based Heartland Community College recently reported that overall headcount and credit-hour enrollment are down slightly this fall.

The unduplicated headcount for undergraduates is 4,793 this fall, a drop of 1 percent from fall 2015’s total of 4,841, according to figures provided at this month’s board of trustees meeting.

Students enrolled for 45,332 credit hours this fall, which is down 0.7 percent from 45,672 a year ago.

Eureka College has a total enrollment of 672 students this fall, including 251 new students. That’s a decrease from last fall’s total enrollment of 695, including 262 new students.

Lincoln College, which is transitioning from a two-year to a four-year institution with campuses in Lincoln and Normal, reported earlier that is enrollment increased to 1,968, a 15 percent jump.

Illinois State University’s fall enrollment is 21,039, a 1.1 percent increase over a year ago.

IWU has fewer new students but more diversity