How Illinois’ private universities can help save its public schools

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“After nearly two years of state budget gridlock … no state money has been allocated to the universities this year,” according to a recent Tribune piece. While politicians debate, our students cannot stop the clock on their lives.

It is understood that state funding will not provide what it once did, at least not in the near future. But perhaps there is some hope for supplemental help, and it is nearby.

Higher education has always been an area for altruism. Providing excellent education — critical reading, oral and written communication skills, a background in the world’s cultural achievements, state-of-the-art STEM subjects, and the visual and performing arts — is extraordinarily important for the future of our nation, our city, our neighborhoods. Education is our common ground.

Both altruism and the pragmatic desire to improve our collective future suggest the following proposal: If the elite universities with large endowments wished to expand their educational mission, their boards, alums and administrators might consider helping nearby state universities. Imagine the assistance if 1 percent (or less!) of unrestricted endowment monies from the richly endowed private universities in our region were designated for specific needs of our state universities.

State universities are financially, but not educationally, struggling.

I have taught at Northern Illinois University for 20 years. My students are the equal, intellectually, of students at elite universities across this country. True, some may be less well-prepared for college than some of the students at elite universities, but we work hard to catch them up, and it is a pleasure to see their strides.

Because these students are often first-generation in college, they struggle to stay in school as they work two or three part-time jobs. This is not the life that I had in college. My father, who later went to college thanks to the GI Bill, had previously flunked out of the University of Illinois while he tried to work long hours in his cousin’s grocery store. He never let his four children cut their schooling in that way.

How about a helping hand for our state’s excellent students who are working triple hard to stay in school? How about a designated scholarship fund from our great regional private universities for these wonderful students?

Perhaps this kind of partnering is something that could be explored before we lose generations of talent.

— Mary Quinlan-McGrath, professor, Northern Illinois University

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via Letters – Chicago Tribune http://ift.tt/1BmqHoD

April 24, 2017 at 08:42AM

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How Illinois’ private universities can help save its public schools

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