Illinois’ higher ed woes benefit Indiana State University

Natalie Calderon, who lives in Chicago, plans to attend Indiana State University this fall to study health sciences.

“My high school guidance counselor told me to stay away from [state] schools in Illinois because of the budget crisis,” she said. Among the concerns are the possibility of some institutions closing as well as cutbacks in financial aid.

At Indiana State, she will be an honors student and qualified for more scholarship money than she would have received in her home state. 


Natalie Calderon, Chicago resident who plans to attend Indiana State in the fall.

But there were other reasons. “I love the campus a lot,” she said. “When I went to visit, everyone was welcoming. It made you feel like it was home.”

Calderon joins a growing number of Illinois students deciding to attend Indiana colleges because of their home state’s budget woes — and universities such as Indiana State are more than happy to accommodate them.

In fact, Indiana State admissions from Illinois are up 50 percent over this time a year ago, said Indiana State president Dan Bradley. “We’re getting a lot more students from Illinois,” he said. “There is just so much bad news. … My guess is that bad news creates anxiety. It’s a real sad story for some of those institutions.”

While Indiana State has aggressively recruited in Illinois for many years and offers scholarships specifically aimed at Illinois residents, these days, “It’s paying off more,” the president said.

Illinois’ budget woes continue to dominate headlines. The Land of Lincoln has been without a budget since July 2015, and as a result, public universities and community colleges have seen their budgets slashed; the results have been faculty and staff layoffs and furloughs, academic and athletic program cuts and declining enrollments.

The Monetary Award Program, which provides grants for low-income students, also has not been funded, forcing many schools to try to absorb the costs. 

 And now, the Higher Learning Commission president says there could be accreditation consequences.

John Beacon, Indiana State’s senior vice president for enrollment management, marketing and communications, believes the growth from Illinois “is in part due to the state appropriations issues plaguing Illinois public universities for the past three years. While Illinois has long had a significant number of students seek out-of-state enrollment, the recent fiscal crisis is prompting more students to leave … I anticipate this will continue for at least another five years.”

One of Indiana State’s recruitment tools is a merit achievement scholarship to academically well qualified Illinois residents, which allows them to attend ISU at a tuition discount over what a non-resident normally would pay, Beacon said. The scholarship “gives us a competitive edge against students in Illinois attending their home public universities.”

He noted that last year, Indiana State had a total undergraduate enrollment from Illinois of 1,104 students. This fall, the university anticipates enrolling around 420 new freshmen from Illinois, compared to 250 new Illinois freshmen last fall, he said.

From Calderon’s standpoint, the Illinois budget crisis “is sad, it really is, that we have all these amazing opportunities that are being taken away because we don’t know how to budget.”

The way things are looking, when she thinks about a future career, “I hope it’s not in Illinois,” she said.

Another Illinois resident planning to attend Indiana State this fall is Abigail Barr of Effingham, who plans to study social work.

While Eastern Illinois University is closer, she never applied there. “Eastern Illinois has a lot of money problems,” she said, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to take that chance. 

“ISU had a lot to offer,” including scholarship money, she said. “It’s a really nice campus.” 

And, it’s about the right distance from home, she said. She applied to Southern Illinois in Carbondale, but she doesn’t want to travel that far for college.

She has several friends who have chosen to remain in Illinois for their college education, although she knows a few who will attend Indiana State, including her roommates. She believes those attending Indiana State have chosen to do so in part because of scholarships and academic programs, among other reasons.

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

Illinois’ higher ed woes benefit Indiana State University

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