Public universities increasingly out of reach for Illinois’ low-income students

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In 1991, I was admitted to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

My mother worked as a telephone operator and didn’t have the money to pay the $3,000 in yearly tuition. But the cost wasn’t a barrier for me, because I was considered a low-income student and qualified for financial aid.

After the grants and scholarships, I had to come up with just $186 – money I made by working summers as a van driver – and was deeply grateful that my college education was virtually free.

With my degree, I became a Chicago Public Schools teacher and lifelong educator, and I entered the middle class – in large part, because of those grants and scholarships.

But as I look around today in Illinois, I see that the path that allowed me to attend college is no longer open to other low-income students.

In 2017, a student with the same economic profile that I had as a teenager would owe about $13,000 per year. Put simply, a public university education in Illinois is no longer the on-ramp to the middle class.

A dizzying array of statistics illustrates this disturbing trend. Our public colleges and universities are meant to be engines of upward economic mobility, but too often are unable to lift up low-income and first-generation students. In fact, the chances of a low-income student actually graduating from college today are only marginally better than they were 30 years ago.

A large percentage of these students are African American and Latino. For these students of color, Illinois’ system of higher education reinforces racial inequality, prevents social mobility and widens the chasm between the haves and have-nots.

While a staggering number of high school graduates have been leaving the state to attend college elsewhere (Illinois ranks second to worst in the nation for net outward migration of college freshmen, according to 2014 data), many low-income students don’t have that option. Instead, a dismaying number are being pushed out of the system entirely and being denied pathways to college.

Consider these statistics from our new report that paints a picture of the crisis in Illinois higher education:

–Between 2011 and 2015, African American undergraduate enrollment in two-year and four-year public institutions dropped 25 percent.

–The cost of attending our public universities has risen dramatically over the years, with average in-state tuition and fees ranking as the fifth-highest in the nation in fiscal year 2016. Yet Illinois was one of just four states that actually cut funding for higher education over the last two fiscal years, by a whopping 68 percent.

–Those cuts left more than 160,000 low-income students–about half of all those eligible–without much-needed state tuition grants in 2016. The impact on students of color was significant, since more than half of black and Latino undergraduates at public universities rely on those grants from the state’s Monetary Award Program.

Last week marked our launch of a series of round-tables with education leaders and stakeholders, to share the new report with its dismaying statistics, and to help move our state toward effective policy solutions.

RELATED:

Students of color take biggest hit in Illinois higher education funding crisis

Without such drastic action, Illinois will never reach the ambitious target set by leaders and policymakers: To have 60 percent of working adults hold a degree or credential by 2025.

There’s real evidence of programs that work toward that goal. Colleges and universities across the country, and some progressive states, are making college more affordable by funding scholarships, offering free tuition, and streamlining transfers for students moving from community college to four-year colleges and universities. Students who attend a community college for their first two years can save substantially on overall college costs.

Governors State University, for example, offers a dual degree program and scholarship for qualifying students who are enrolled full-time at Chicagoland community colleges and who transfer to Governors State.

The City Colleges of Chicago STAR Scholarship Program, which provides free tuition to college-ready Chicago Public Schools students—many of them undocumented–has since forged a partnership with 20 area colleges and universities to streamline transfers and provide scholarships for transfer students.

And the College of Lake County Promise Program provides funding for college-ready low-income students living in the community college district who have unmet financial need.

We need more programs like these that marshal resources in a coordinated effort.

Most critically, however, Illinois must increase state investment in financial aid for low-income students, and in funding for higher education in general.

Making college affordable and removing unnecessary barriers to completion is essential to the economic, social and civic health of our state.

The time is now to develop a bold plan for higher education equity in Illinois. Nothing less than the livelihood and happiness of generations of Illinois residents depend on us getting this right.

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October 2, 2017 at 01:31PM

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Public universities increasingly out of reach for Illinois’ low-income students

‘The sun is rising’

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WIU President Jack Thomas delivers positive outlook

MACOMB — On Thursday, members of the university community gathered in Western Hall for the first University Assembly and heard a message of positivity during Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas’ State of the University address.
Thomas referenced Benjamin Franklin’s quote regarding the sun cast on the back of the 1787 Constitutional Convention president’s chair.
The original Franklin quote states: “I have often … in the course of the session … looked at that sun behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”
Thomas likened the future of Western Illinois University as that under a rising sun in the wake of the recent state budget impasse.
“The sun is rising on Western Illinois University,” Thomas told assembly attendees.  
“We have weathered some difficult days.  But through the midst of it all, we have created a solid foundation for future success.”
In a recent statement to the university community, Thomas stated the university must continue moving forward with “guarded optimism” in light of the recent governmental and financial woes.
Part of that includes preparing new goals for the administration.
According to Thomas, six goals for the 2017-2018 academic year include:
• Investing in high-growth and high-demand programs.
• Expanding educational opportunities, including new and enhanced academic degree programs.
• Enhancing recruitment and retention strategies.
• Expanding public service and community engagement efforts.
• Increasing external funding to limit cost increases for students.
• Continue mission-driven planning and fiscal management.

A hand-out presented at the assembly notes the annual impact of Western Illinois University on the 16-county region. Impacts include the generation of $473 million, 3,905 full-time and part-time employees, $226 million in labor income and $74 million in local, state and federal revenue.
Eight-nine percent of the university undergraduate students are from Illinois. The student makeup includes 61 percent as Pell grant eligible, 46 percent are MAP grant eligible, 42 percent are first generation freshmen, 20.9 is the average incoming student ACT score and 3.21 is the average incoming high school student GPA.
Regarding racial or ethnic makeup, 64 percent of students are white or caucasian, 11 percent are hispanic, 19 percent are African-American, one percent are Asian, and five percent are from the international community.
Thomas stated the FY18 fiscal year should receive $46.3 million in appropriations based on the state budget. He noted this is a 10 percent reduction from the previous FY15 full appropriation of $51.4 million. There is an estimated $10.4 million incoming for FY18 MAP funding. The state has appropriated $10.9 million to cover the FY17 MAP funding and an additional $20.1 million to raise the prior FY17 total to $59 million.
Students begin classes on Monday.

Reach Jared DuBach by email at jdubach@mcdonoughvoice.com.

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August 20, 2017 at 12:05AM

‘The sun is rising’

‘The sun is rising’

http://ift.tt/2vPnnna

WIU President Jack Thomas delivers positive outlook

MACOMB — On Thursday, members of the university community gathered in Western Hall for the first University Assembly and heard a message of positivity during Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas’ State of the University address.
Thomas referenced Benjamin Franklin’s quote regarding the sun cast on the back of the 1787 Constitutional Convention president’s chair.
The original Franklin quote states: “I have often … in the course of the session … looked at that sun behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”
Thomas likened the future of Western Illinois University as that under a rising sun in the wake of the recent state budget impasse.
“The sun is rising on Western Illinois University,” Thomas told assembly attendees.  
“We have weathered some difficult days.  But through the midst of it all, we have created a solid foundation for future success.”
In a recent statement to the university community, Thomas stated the university must continue moving forward with “guarded optimism” in light of the recent governmental and financial woes.
Part of that includes preparing new goals for the administration.
According to Thomas, six goals for the 2017-2018 academic year include:
• Investing in high-growth and high-demand programs.
• Expanding educational opportunities, including new and enhanced academic degree programs.
• Enhancing recruitment and retention strategies.
• Expanding public service and community engagement efforts.
• Increasing external funding to limit cost increases for students.
• Continue mission-driven planning and fiscal management.

A hand-out presented at the assembly notes the annual impact of Western Illinois University on the 16-county region. Impacts include the generation of $473 million, 3,905 full-time and part-time employees, $226 million in labor income and $74 million in local, state and federal revenue.
Eight-nine percent of the university undergraduate students are from Illinois. The student makeup includes 61 percent as Pell grant eligible, 46 percent are MAP grant eligible, 42 percent are first generation freshmen, 20.9 is the average incoming student ACT score and 3.21 is the average incoming high school student GPA.
Regarding racial or ethnic makeup, 64 percent of students are white or caucasian, 11 percent are hispanic, 19 percent are African-American, one percent are Asian, and five percent are from the international community.
Thomas stated the FY18 fiscal year should receive $46.3 million in appropriations based on the state budget. He noted this is a 10 percent reduction from the previous FY15 full appropriation of $51.4 million. There is an estimated $10.4 million incoming for FY18 MAP funding. The state has appropriated $10.9 million to cover the FY17 MAP funding and an additional $20.1 million to raise the prior FY17 total to $59 million.
Students begin classes on Monday.

Reach Jared DuBach by email at jdubach@mcdonoughvoice.com.

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August 20, 2017 at 12:05AM

‘The sun is rising’

‘The sun is rising’

http://ift.tt/2vPnnna

WIU President Jack Thomas delivers positive outlook

MACOMB — On Thursday, members of the university community gathered in Western Hall for the first University Assembly and heard a message of positivity during Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas’ State of the University address.
Thomas referenced Benjamin Franklin’s quote regarding the sun cast on the back of the 1787 Constitutional Convention president’s chair.
The original Franklin quote states: “I have often … in the course of the session … looked at that sun behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”
Thomas likened the future of Western Illinois University as that under a rising sun in the wake of the recent state budget impasse.
“The sun is rising on Western Illinois University,” Thomas told assembly attendees.  
“We have weathered some difficult days.  But through the midst of it all, we have created a solid foundation for future success.”
In a recent statement to the university community, Thomas stated the university must continue moving forward with “guarded optimism” in light of the recent governmental and financial woes.
Part of that includes preparing new goals for the administration.
According to Thomas, six goals for the 2017-2018 academic year include:
• Investing in high-growth and high-demand programs.
• Expanding educational opportunities, including new and enhanced academic degree programs.
• Enhancing recruitment and retention strategies.
• Expanding public service and community engagement efforts.
• Increasing external funding to limit cost increases for students.
• Continue mission-driven planning and fiscal management.

A hand-out presented at the assembly notes the annual impact of Western Illinois University on the 16-county region. Impacts include the generation of $473 million, 3,905 full-time and part-time employees, $226 million in labor income and $74 million in local, state and federal revenue.
Eight-nine percent of the university undergraduate students are from Illinois. The student makeup includes 61 percent as Pell grant eligible, 46 percent are MAP grant eligible, 42 percent are first generation freshmen, 20.9 is the average incoming student ACT score and 3.21 is the average incoming high school student GPA.
Regarding racial or ethnic makeup, 64 percent of students are white or caucasian, 11 percent are hispanic, 19 percent are African-American, one percent are Asian, and five percent are from the international community.
Thomas stated the FY18 fiscal year should receive $46.3 million in appropriations based on the state budget. He noted this is a 10 percent reduction from the previous FY15 full appropriation of $51.4 million. There is an estimated $10.4 million incoming for FY18 MAP funding. The state has appropriated $10.9 million to cover the FY17 MAP funding and an additional $20.1 million to raise the prior FY17 total to $59 million.
Students begin classes on Monday.

Reach Jared DuBach by email at jdubach@mcdonoughvoice.com.

01-All No Sub,02-Pol,03-HL 20,04-Pens 2,12-Coll,16-Econ,HE Blog,HE Coalition

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August 20, 2017 at 12:05AM

‘The sun is rising’

‘The sun is rising’

http://ift.tt/2vPnnna

WIU President Jack Thomas delivers positive outlook

MACOMB — On Thursday, members of the university community gathered in Western Hall for the first University Assembly and heard a message of positivity during Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas’ State of the University address.
Thomas referenced Benjamin Franklin’s quote regarding the sun cast on the back of the 1787 Constitutional Convention president’s chair.
The original Franklin quote states: “I have often … in the course of the session … looked at that sun behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”
Thomas likened the future of Western Illinois University as that under a rising sun in the wake of the recent state budget impasse.
“The sun is rising on Western Illinois University,” Thomas told assembly attendees.  
“We have weathered some difficult days.  But through the midst of it all, we have created a solid foundation for future success.”
In a recent statement to the university community, Thomas stated the university must continue moving forward with “guarded optimism” in light of the recent governmental and financial woes.
Part of that includes preparing new goals for the administration.
According to Thomas, six goals for the 2017-2018 academic year include:
• Investing in high-growth and high-demand programs.
• Expanding educational opportunities, including new and enhanced academic degree programs.
• Enhancing recruitment and retention strategies.
• Expanding public service and community engagement efforts.
• Increasing external funding to limit cost increases for students.
• Continue mission-driven planning and fiscal management.

A hand-out presented at the assembly notes the annual impact of Western Illinois University on the 16-county region. Impacts include the generation of $473 million, 3,905 full-time and part-time employees, $226 million in labor income and $74 million in local, state and federal revenue.
Eight-nine percent of the university undergraduate students are from Illinois. The student makeup includes 61 percent as Pell grant eligible, 46 percent are MAP grant eligible, 42 percent are first generation freshmen, 20.9 is the average incoming student ACT score and 3.21 is the average incoming high school student GPA.
Regarding racial or ethnic makeup, 64 percent of students are white or caucasian, 11 percent are hispanic, 19 percent are African-American, one percent are Asian, and five percent are from the international community.
Thomas stated the FY18 fiscal year should receive $46.3 million in appropriations based on the state budget. He noted this is a 10 percent reduction from the previous FY15 full appropriation of $51.4 million. There is an estimated $10.4 million incoming for FY18 MAP funding. The state has appropriated $10.9 million to cover the FY17 MAP funding and an additional $20.1 million to raise the prior FY17 total to $59 million.
Students begin classes on Monday.

Reach Jared DuBach by email at jdubach@mcdonoughvoice.com.

01-All No Sub,02-Pol,03-HL 20,04-Pens 2,12-Coll,16-Econ,HE Blog,HE Coalition

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August 20, 2017 at 12:05AM

‘The sun is rising’

‘The sun is rising’

http://ift.tt/2vPnnna

WIU President Jack Thomas delivers positive outlook

MACOMB — On Thursday, members of the university community gathered in Western Hall for the first University Assembly and heard a message of positivity during Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas’ State of the University address.
Thomas referenced Benjamin Franklin’s quote regarding the sun cast on the back of the 1787 Constitutional Convention president’s chair.
The original Franklin quote states: “I have often … in the course of the session … looked at that sun behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”
Thomas likened the future of Western Illinois University as that under a rising sun in the wake of the recent state budget impasse.
“The sun is rising on Western Illinois University,” Thomas told assembly attendees.  
“We have weathered some difficult days.  But through the midst of it all, we have created a solid foundation for future success.”
In a recent statement to the university community, Thomas stated the university must continue moving forward with “guarded optimism” in light of the recent governmental and financial woes.
Part of that includes preparing new goals for the administration.
According to Thomas, six goals for the 2017-2018 academic year include:
• Investing in high-growth and high-demand programs.
• Expanding educational opportunities, including new and enhanced academic degree programs.
• Enhancing recruitment and retention strategies.
• Expanding public service and community engagement efforts.
• Increasing external funding to limit cost increases for students.
• Continue mission-driven planning and fiscal management.

A hand-out presented at the assembly notes the annual impact of Western Illinois University on the 16-county region. Impacts include the generation of $473 million, 3,905 full-time and part-time employees, $226 million in labor income and $74 million in local, state and federal revenue.
Eight-nine percent of the university undergraduate students are from Illinois. The student makeup includes 61 percent as Pell grant eligible, 46 percent are MAP grant eligible, 42 percent are first generation freshmen, 20.9 is the average incoming student ACT score and 3.21 is the average incoming high school student GPA.
Regarding racial or ethnic makeup, 64 percent of students are white or caucasian, 11 percent are hispanic, 19 percent are African-American, one percent are Asian, and five percent are from the international community.
Thomas stated the FY18 fiscal year should receive $46.3 million in appropriations based on the state budget. He noted this is a 10 percent reduction from the previous FY15 full appropriation of $51.4 million. There is an estimated $10.4 million incoming for FY18 MAP funding. The state has appropriated $10.9 million to cover the FY17 MAP funding and an additional $20.1 million to raise the prior FY17 total to $59 million.
Students begin classes on Monday.

Reach Jared DuBach by email at jdubach@mcdonoughvoice.com.

01-All No Sub,02-Pol,03-HL 20,04-Pens 2,12-Coll,16-Econ,HE Blog,HE Coalition

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August 20, 2017 at 12:05AM

‘The sun is rising’

Judge stops NIU from paying rest of ousted president’s severance package

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A DeKalb County judge Friday barred Northern Illinois University from paying the remainder of ousted President Doug Baker’s severance package while the court considers whether school trustees violated the law when they approved the deal.

But Baker — who left in June after the release of a state report alleging improper spending during his tenure — already has received most of his money, including a $450,000 payment to end his contract a year early and another $137,500 to resign from his tenured position at the business school.

NIU will not have to claw the money back under the ruling by Circuit Judge Bradley Waller, university officials said. Instead, while the case is still pending, the school will withhold any remaining reimbursements for legal expenses Baker incurred during his 4-year tenure.

Trustees had agreed to pay him up to $30,000 for “reasonable, unpaid expenses for legal counsel.”

All totaled, Baker’s severance package is worth up to $617,500.

A lawsuit filed earlier this summer by Misty Haji-Sheikh, a DeKalb County board member who is also taking graduate classes at Northern Illinois, accused NIU trustees of violating the state’s Open Meetings Act by withholding details of Baker’s severance until the end of their meeting, which did not give the public sufficient time to review the terms before board members approved the exit deal.

Haji-Sheikh’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

According to the suit, the board typically holds an open session at the meetings and follows that with a closed session. But on June 15, it said, the board departed from that practice and reserved one item on the agenda for a second open session, after the closed session, which lasted more than seven hours.

The only item to discuss in that second open session was Baker’s departure — vaguely described on the agenda as “presidential employment.” No public comment was sought, the suit said.

The board’s vote came about two weeks after the release of a damning report from the Governor’s Office of Executive Inspector General, which alleged ethical violations on Baker’s watch. Though the public only learned about the report in late May, trustees had known about it for nearly a year when they approved the severance package.

The report, among other things, alleged that administrators under his leadership routinely skirted ethics requirements to hire highly paid consultants, covered the consultants’ housing and travel expenses, and then kept them on staff for too long at lofty pay levels.

Baker has denied the report’s assertions, but said he had reached the conclusion he could not continue as university president because the investigation proved a “significant distraction.”

The inspector general launched the inquiry into Northern Illinois’ hiring practices in 2014 following several anonymous tips. Illinois law requires state agencies to publicly bid out contracts for professional services from an independent contractor worth more than $20,000.

But the report found that the university hired nine employees between June 2013 and May 2015, paying them all more than $20,000, but never solicited bids for those jobs.

In all, investigators wrote, Northern Illinois spent more than $1 million on the five highest-paid of those employees.

sstclair@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @StacyStClair

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August 4, 2017 at 06:33PM

Judge stops NIU from paying rest of ousted president’s severance package