Meager enrollment, generous salaries at Chicago State University

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Meager enrollment, generous salaries at Chicago State University

Almost all of Illinois’ public universities have fewer students on campus this fall. But Chicago State University has the fewest of them all.

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September 30, 2017 at 12:46PM

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Meager enrollment, generous salaries at Chicago State University

Report: College Diploma Out-Of-Reach For Growing Number Of Low-Income Students

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Aileen Ramirez, a fourth-year student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, plans to graduate next fall and possibly go on to get her master’s degree in social work. But UIC wasn’t Ramirez’s first — or even second — choice.

After cobbling together scholarships and other aid, it was the best school she could afford.

“My parents always told me, ‘Try to have good grades so you can get some scholarships. That way you don’t struggle, and we don’t struggle, trying to pay for school,’” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said her parents couldn’t help her pay for school. Her father works at a suburban warehouse and her mother isn’t working now. Her parents also care for two younger siblings. Ramirez also lives at home to cut down on expenses.

Despite her challenges, Ramirez considers herself one of the lucky ones. With her patchwork of scholarships, she’s managed to make it to college and is approaching graduation. But for many other low-income students in Illinois, a college diploma is increasingly out of reach, according to a new reported released Tuesday by the Partnership for College Completion, or PCC.

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The Chicago-based organization found that while middle-class families in Illinois need to set aside a quarter of their total income for a student to attend a four-year institution, low-income families need to set aside 63 percent, according to data from 2014.

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PCC also reported that Illinois ranked fifth highest in the country for in-state tuition and fees during fiscal year 2016 as part of its review of public data and published studies on higher education in Illinois. 

Kyle Westbrook, founding executive director of PCC, said those costs are contributing to lagging graduation rates among low-income students and students of color, even within the more affordable community college system. Though that graduation gap isn’t unique to Illinois, the state has faced greater hurdles as its proportion of low-income students has grown.

“About 50 percent of our state’s elementary and high school students are low income, and that brings with them some significant challenges as well as lack of resources when they are able to move into higher education,” Westbrook said.

The report also found that Illinois was one of just four states that cut funding for higher education over the last two years, a year-to-year difference of 68 percent. The cuts took place during the state’s protracted budget impasse. In addition, about half of the students eligible for need-based state MAP grants didn’t receive the financial award because of insufficient funding. And even if all eligible students received the grant money in 2016, the PCC report found that the average in-state tuition and fee rate increasingly outpaced the maximum MAP awards.

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Jesus Palafox in Dr. Olivia Perlow’s race and ethnic relations class at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago on Jan. 12, 2011. A new study shows the cost of college relative to family income in Illinois is growing at one of the fastest rates in the country. (Shauna Bittle for WBEZ, File)

This year looks better for higher education in Illinois. Following the resolution of the budget impasse this summer, lawmakers set aside about $1.1 billion dollars for public universities for this year, about the same amount they received over the last two years. This year’s budget also increases funding for MAP grants by 10 percent.

Still, PCC said the state Legislature needs to do more to invest in higher education for low-income students to keep talent in state and to make up for lost ground. The study also found that Illinois has the second largest population of students going out of state for college.

Lisa Castillo Richmond, director of strategy at PCC, said states and institutions that set goals to close the disparity gap have made progress.

“They’re really focusing on increasing attainment overall, eliminating achievement gaps, racial achievement gaps and socioeconomic achievement gaps. And that’s where they’re seeing movement,” Castillo Richmond said.

Illinois aims to increase the proportion of adult residents with a post-secondary degree or career credential to 60 percent by 2025. So far, the state is lagging behind that goal. As of 2015, some 50 percent had a college or career credential, according to PCC.

Susie An is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her on Twitter @WBEZeducation.

Report: College Diploma Out-Of-Reach For Growing Number Of Low-Income Students

Focus on Fulbright: Q&A with President Larry Dietz | News – Illinois State

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image of President Larry Dietz

Illinois State University President Larry Dietz

President Larry Dietz participated in the Administrators Fulbright program to Germany in 1993. To celebrate Fulbright alumni at Illinois State, he recounts his days in the program and the impact it made. #Fulbright@ISU

Describe your Fulbright project
The project was to gain insight into the structure of higher education throughout the country and the corresponding financing mechanisms for those educational entities and for students. We spent some time in what was then the capital, Bonn, meeting with Fulbright administrators, some ambassadors, and other administrators. We then spent the remainder of our time traveling throughout Northern Germany including many communities in the former East Germany. We met with faculty members, rectors, elected officials, international directors of many campuses, and some students. We had wonderful exchanges of ideas, gained a lot of information about higher education in Germany including the role of the universities versus the fachhochschulen, and made many new friends along the way.

How do you believe your Fulbright experience changed your work after you returned?
Before I left Germany I talked to the Fulbright administrator indicating that I would be happy to host a group of German administrators once I returned. I followed that with a proposal and in the following year hosted a number of German administrators at my university, which was the University of Missouri-Kansas City. I worked with another person on our trip to Germany to help host the group and she was from the University of Kansas. Out of that we developed exchange agreements and several other formal agreements between several German universities and fachhochulen. To this day, I have some contacts with these individuals and just this past year I used this connection to place an ISU student at Augsburg Fachhochule for an internship. The experience also broadened my perspective on how important the international dimension of higher education was in the world and in American institutions. Since then, I have developed agreements in many other countries and enhanced the international dimension of every university I have served since that time.

Travel can be referred to as the gift of the unexpected. What was the most unexpected thing you saw or experienced?

People are people the world over, especially in education. While our governments may differ; our structures for delivery of education may differ; and our philosophies may differ; the underlying agreement is that education changes lives and international experiences are essential to broadening our perspectives and enhancing our education.

Have you returned to the country where you served your Fulbright award? Had it changed? Had you changed?
Yes, I have visited Germany many times since my Fulbright. I have gone there on business and vacation. The country has changed in that when I was there it wasn’t long after the Berlin wall had come down and they were adjusting to that change. They have also started to charge students for their education and developed a framework for what we would call financial aid to offset costs.

What do you most wish people could understand about the Fulbright experience?
I wish that more people knew about these opportunities and took the time to write proposals to participate. The programs are well-organized and introduces participants to important decision-makers and to the particular culture in unique and yet comfortable ways. International experiences such as the Fulbright simply changes one’s life and I am a great supporter of the program.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of applying for Fulbright?
Do it! It will be a great experience.

Learn more about the Fulbright alumni community at Illinois State.

Focus on Fulbright: Q&A with President Larry Dietz | News – Illinois State

Illinois public higher education takes hit to enrollment numbers

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Infographic by Madison Kacer

Enrollment at state universities in Illinois has been showing a downward trend, including NIU, and officials from universities across the state are looking for reasons and solutions.

NIU’s ten-day enrollment numbers were released Sept. 12, and with them came “good news” and a need to “grow enrollment in other areas,” acting President Lisa Freeman said during her Wednesday state of the university address.

Overall undergraduate enrollment decreased by 4.4 percent from fall 2016. Meanwhile, graduate enrollment has gone down 7.5 percent — the biggest drop in graduate enrollment for NIU this decade.

Numbers are dropping not just in DeKalb, but all across the state. Eastern Illinois University reported an overall enrollment decrease of 5 percent, which is the lowest decrease for the university in six years, according to a Sept. 8 EIU press release. Southern Illinois University’s enrollment dropped by nearly 9 percent this year. While graduate student numbers increased at Illinois State University by 2.4 percent, the institution reported a 1.7 percent drop in undergraduate students.

“There are a number of factors that have lead to fewer students going to public school in Illinois,” said State Rep. Robert Pritchard (R-Hickley).

793 days without a budget

Josh Norman, EIU associate vice president for Enrollment Management, said the lack of a state budget is part of the reason for enrollment decreases, according to the press release.

“Some of the trends [Norman and I] discussed include how the budget impasse has impacted enrollment cycles,” said Josh Reinhart, EIU public information coordinator. “Because no budget was in place, most state universities’s enrollment cycles were impacted. Prospective students who were seeking opportunities in the state for higher education, it made it harder for them to reach decisions due to instability. That instability over the last two years has contributed to some enrollment decline.”

Illinois went two years without a state budget, leaving universities to pay millions that previously would have been covered by state appropriations. The Illinois House of Representatives overrode a veto by Gov. Bruce Rauner on a budget in July, ending the nearly three-year impasse.

“The impacts of more than 700 days without support from the state cannot be undone quickly,” Freeman said in Wednesday’s address. “Fallout is widespread, and there’s still a great deal of uncertainty with Springfield for next year.”

SIU Chancellor Carlo Montemagno said the state budget crisis was why the university anticipated a drop in enrollment, as well.

Concerns about appropriations are ongoing, as the passing of a state budget to support higher education in Illinois may be only temporary, Pritchard said.

“The uncertainty of having a budget next year still remains,” Pritchard said. “We came together this year because we were in such a desperate situation.”

S&P Global Ratings was planning on downgrading the state of Illinois to junk-level credit, but the downgrade was put off by the budget passing. S&P still warned of a “fiscal hangover,” according to a July 12 Chicago Tribune article.

Illinois falling behind competition

While neighboring states like Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana saw statewide increases in enrollment from 2006 to 2015, Illinois was the only state in the region to see a decrease in enrollment, dropping statewide by 5 percent, according to a Sept. 13 Chicago Magazine article.

“Higher education in the Midwest, and probably the nation, is a bit more competitive than it has been in years past,” Reinhart said. “Sometimes states have border state agreements where they will reach out to prospective students from other states and offer them in-state tuition.”

Records about entry level tuition rates from the Illinois Board of Higher Education show public state universities increased tuition prices by an average of 92 percent in the past ten years.

NIU has seen tuition rise by 98 percent, while Northeastern Illinois University has seen the highest increase over 10 years in the state at 112 percent. Michigan has seen the second highest hike in the Midwest at 62 percent, according to an annual survey by the College Board, a nonprofit education research company.

Pritchard said this a primary reason for declining enrollment.

“The disinvestment in public education has also been a factor that caused universities to raise tuition and fees,” Pritchard said. “Because they’ve raised tuition and fees, it’s caused those numbers to be higher than those in our neighboring states.”

The increased tuition rates have also left some students frustrated with questions of their own.

“My whole argument with it is ‘where does the money go?’ ” said freshman anthropology major Kalin Upson.

NIU’s division of Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications officials are looking at ways to help lure students to the university.

“I would love to have more students visit our campus,” said Sol Jensen, NIU vice president for Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications. “I also think that one of the things we do really well here that I want to continue and expand on is the personalization we provide our students, and that starts from the day we start recruiting them all the way through their time until they’re graduating.”

Population, high school grad numbers falling

Jensen said he is also looking at graduation rates for high schools across the state, as he said colleges may be struggling because of depleting secondary graduates.

“There is a severe decline in the number of students who are graduating from high schools in the state of Illinois,” Jensen said.

The number of graduates in the state is projected to go down 2.8 percent by 2024, according to a 2014 study done by Ruffalo Noel Levitz, an enrollment management service.

Illinois is also experiencing a problem with people moving out of the state, as it lost more residents in 2016 than any other state in the U.S.

“If people can make a better life elsewhere, why wouldn’t they?” Upson said.

Despite the circumstances, Freeman showed a positive attitude during the address, as NIU saw increased freshman enrollment by 3 percent.

“We have to build on those gains and grow enrollment in other areas; and we can do this using the

lessons we have learned about the importance of collaboration and the power of relationships as

resources,” Freeman said.

Illinois public higher education takes hit to enrollment numbers

Dietz Frets About Possible Election Year Budget Politics

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Illinois State University President Larry Dietz said a looming state election cycle could hold new budget negotiations hostage.

Dietz told the campus community during his State of the University speech on Thursday that possibility is tempering his essential optimism and forcing planners to come up with contingencies in case stopgap budgeting returns.

Dietz says the last two years of deadlock reduced ISU funding by $51 million compared to budgets frozen at 2015 levels.

Dietz repeated his mantra that ISU is strong and stable and has weathered the budget deadlock better than many public universities in the state.

Dietz said he would try to address pay discrepancies for some faculty compared to other institutions.

“Right now, the salaries of full and associate professors at Illinois State lag significantly behind those at many of our peer group institutions. My goal is to begin closing that gap—a gap that has resulted in salary compression and inversion issues on campus. One mechanism we are investigating is to enhance the promotion increase for those who have been elevated from assistant to associate professor and associate to full professor while serving at Illinois State,” said Dietz.

Dietz also said he hopes to offer a mid-year pay increase for faculty and staff.

“I stress that none of these initiatives are as of yet written in stone, but you will be likely be hearing more about them at the college, departmental and divisional levels during this academic year” said Dietz.

On the academic front, the President said ISU is exploring whether to add engineering physics and mechanical, electrical and systems engineering programs.
    
“Faculty have already examined employment outlook data for various engineering specialties and have drafted some plans of study. Next steps for our faculty include visits to several universities with existing programs to better understand the resources, facilities, equipment and personnel needed to launch engineering programs,” said Dietz.  

Dietz also praised the work of a Climate Assessment Task Force which has issued a report on making the campus more diverse. Dietz said a number of new initiatives are already under way.

“One includes a new, campuswide Diversity Executive Council, which I see as a clear step toward the institutionalization of diversity on campus. We are all a reflection of our University values, and the establishment of the Diversity Executive Council reinforces this core value while sending the message that diversity and inclusion must emanate from every office and every individual on campus.,” said Dietz.

Dietz said he believes the executive council will offer a chance for everyone to have a voice to strengthen the university.

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Dietz Frets About Possible Election Year Budget Politics

Little: Falling student enrollment bad sign for Illinois

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Illinois’ education environment has been extremely volatile for the last couple of years. State funding for our state’s public colleges and universities has significantly decreased, schools are laying off faculty members, library hours have been reduced and maintenance work has been delayed. Low-income students face the threat of having their state-funded scholarships taken away from them, and there doesn’t seem to be a long-term solution in sight.

This financial crisis stems from decades of fiscal mismanagement, which has lead to $15 billion in unpaid bills and a preposterous quarter-trillion dollars in unfunded pension liabilities to loyal, public employees.

Cuts in state funding have forced schools to raise tuition and fees, causing a host of negative effects. In addition to stealing the hope that low income students have for procuring a higher education, increases in cost lead to declining graduation rates, more student loan debt, inability to make large purchases (e.g., a home or a car) and emotional stress.

Uncertainty about financial aid, as well as increased competition from surrounding states, have led to Illinois gaining the title of the second largest exporter of freshmen to other state’s public colleges. Thousands of students are following the money and searching for the biggest bang for their buck. According to the Illinois Board of Higher Education Outmigration Context Report, the net loss of students in 2014 — the most recent year for which data is available — was 16,623, which is greater than the undergraduate student body of nine of Illinois’ public universities.

Inevitably, this has all contributed to lower enrollment at most state schools. Illinois State University had fewer new freshmen and transfer students this fall, ending three continuous years of record breaking growth. Our school is down over 300 freshmen and over 200 transfer students in comparison to last year. ISU’s overall enrollment remained relatively constant, with only a 1.2 percent decline versus fall 2016.

Many other state schools were not nearly as lucky. Chicago State University’s enrollment dropped 25 percent in 2016, and 11.4 percent this year. Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and Western Illinois University were neck and neck at with a fall of 8.9 percent.

Public universities in neighboring states are jumping at the opportunity to attract Illinois talent to their institutions. Schools like University of Iowa provide shiny scholarships, but still make more money off out-of-state students than residents. Some colleges, such as the University of Missouri, show students how they can become eligible for in-state tuition after just one year.

Another downfall of losing students is that gifted students may never return to positively impact our state’s workforce. It’s very common for students to stay put after graduation. Losing talented students means losing talented workers, innovators and entrepreneurs who can benefit our economy.

Illinois made this financial nightmare a reality by ignoring the long-term consequences of poor short-term decision making. Our state’s unstable budget has led to the increase of tuition, and ultimately the loss of students to other states’ public schools. Luckily, ISU has weathered the storm and has not been nearly as affected as other Illinois colleges and universities.

Although our enrollment rates have been resilient in the face of danger, will we be able to uphold our financial and educational value if this trend of mismanagement of funds continues? The bottom line is that if Illinois does not get the budget on a sustainable path, vital organizations and institutions will crash and burn. While it isn’t too late to get back on track, immediate action must be taken to stop the downfall of our state before the damage becomes irreversible.

Little: Falling student enrollment bad sign for Illinois