Illinois Is Still Losing People—Especially College Students

The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability recently published a good piece on why Illinois is losing residents (and it’s losing a lot). But “losing” suggests that people leaving Illinois is the problem.

And that’s what the CTBA post clarifies. Compared to other states, Illinois is in the middle of the pack in terms of the number of people leaving, or out-migration. It’s in-migration that’s the problem, where Illinois is third from the bottom. While 27 people per thousand left in 2015, only 22 people per thousand moved in.

The problem’s gotten worse throughout the state as well. Cook County has had net out-migration every year since 1990; downstate hovered around zero from 1990 to 2007; the collar counties had high in-migration until 2006. Beginning around 2006, net migration in all three areas regressed to near zero, as the Great Recession made it harder and less appealing to move at all, whether in or out.

Since the economy’s recovered, all three areas, including the former growth region of the collar counties, have declined.

What’s going on? CTBA goes through a number of causes, but one in particular caught my eye: migration trends downstate where there are public universities.

While typically these college-adjacent areas (the blue line in the graph) are more immune to population loss than those without nearby public universities (the orange line), both have fallen quite low in the last seven years. 

Chicago has covered this trend before. In January, well into the budget crisis, Judith Crown covered the out-migration of Illinois high schoolers to neighboring states, finding that a problem which predated the crisis had gotten worse.

At the root of all this are cuts in state funding that have forced Illinois schools to raise base tuition and fees. At Urbana, in-state rates rose 59 percent over the past 10 years, to a minimum of $15,700 and a maximum of $20,700 (not including room and board), depending on the major. At the same time, financial aid through the state’s Monetary Award Program, which provides need-based grants to residents, doesn’t go as far as it used to. It’s not even clear from term to term whether funds will be available: In a survey released in December by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, 47 percent of Illinois schools said they couldn’t guarantee that students would continue to receive in the spring semester awards they got in the fall.

Meanwhile, schools like the University of Iowa and the University of Missouri were making their schools just as or more affordable to attend for Illinois residents, wiping out the most obvious and easiest-to-control advantage one state has over another in terms of retaining its high-school graduates.

The results aren’t particularly surprising, as I wrote not long after. State university enrollment has declined in Illinois while it’s increased for our neighbors.

The problem seems to have gotten worse. The Illinois Economic Policy Institute recently released an overview of enrollment trends and the economic impact of the state’s higher-ed contraction (h/t Capitol Fax), finding that Illinois colleges and universities lost 72,000 students during the budget impasse. That includes community-college students, a population much greater than the four-year student population, but it’s still about a nine-percent decline; 4,900 direct jobs were lost, about a six percent cut.

Put together, it’s a lot of students gone, and a lot of jobs lost that could also impact local populations. Smaller schools were the hardest hit. NEIU, Governor’s State, and the two SIU campuses increased their tuition over nine percent from 2015-2017; UIUC, an internationally regarded, well-endowed flagship, raised its tuition just two percent. It also added about 2,500 students from 2011 to 2016.

This issue long predates the budget impasse. Back in 2008, the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at UIUC sounded the alarm: In the previous decade, state support of universities declined 18 percent, while tuition and fees at UIUC itself had increased from about 12 percent of the state median income to 16 percent. In 1988, MAP grants covered about 65 percent of public-university tuition; in 2008, about 40 percent.

The budget crisis simply accelerated this decline. To get out of it, the state can look to its neighbors—and why our high-school graduates are moving there.


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Illinois Is Still Losing People—Especially College Students

Acting NIU President Says Employee Raises Are A Priority

Northern Illinois University’s Acting President said it’s time to repair the damage done by the state budget impasse.  That includes addressing employee compensation.

After more than 700 days without, Illinois has a budget and Northern Illinois University has funding for a full year.  Acting NIU President Lisa Freeman said the school must now work to make up ground that was lost during the budget impasse.

“We need to make sure that we take care of things that have been neglected during that period,” Freeman said, “and that includes employee compensation, it includes our physical plant and our infrastructure.”

Freeman said that, even though the school’s current state allocation is smaller than in past budgets, at least there is now funding to go toward those necessary items.  In the wake of the impasse, many urgently need action.

“But to me, personally,” Freeman said, “the priority is making sure that our employees who are dedicated and committed to the university can see some raises as soon as we possibly do it.”

Freeman says that will take some work to figure out, but she has a team on it and hopes to be able to say more on the subject soon.

In the two years since Illinois last had a budget, colleges and universities have been living hand-to-mouth, trying to keep afloat by laying off employees, deferring maintenance and other cost-cutting measures.  

Freeman also said, regardless of the level of state support, the school will continue efforts to attract and retain students. She says that’s must if NIU is to be healthy in the long run. 

Acting NIU President Says Employee Raises Are A Priority

MAP grant funding returns to Illinois


Though students at the University of Illinois in Springfield still received funding because UIS fronted that cost for students, that was only a short-term fix. (WICS)


With a full state budget now in place, many state programs, higher education institutions, and social services are slowly starting to see state funds. Universities were among the hardest hit by the budget crisis. Most were forced to make budget cuts, drop programs, and some faced losing accreditation.

During the impasse, Illinois stopped funding MAP grants, which provide assistance to thousands of the state’s neediest students for college, but that funding is back and students throughout Illinois are relieved. Though students at the University of Illinois in Springfield still received funding because UIS fronted that cost for students, that was only a short-term fix.

“Affordability is always an issue,” UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said. “Every year we have students who struggle paying for college.”

Roughly 800 students at UIS rely on map grants; that’s about $2.5 million each academic year. That’s a hefty burden shouldered by UIS when that funding was eliminated due to budget uncertainty despite being owed millions of dollars by the state.

“We fronted the MAP money for several years to make sure that regardless of what the state does, our students will be able to attend school,” Chancellor Koch said.

At UIS, an individual student receives, on average, over $3,000 per year from MAP grants. With the rising cost of education, any at-risk funding creates a stressful situation for students.

“That stability was starting to fade,” said Navi Fields, a junior at UIS. “I was starting to pay more and I was starting to put more pressure on myself as far as having to pay because I didn’t want to put it all on my mom, so I was starting to stress.”

UIS says they’ve been fronting MAP grant funding for three years and would have done so for as long as possible. Still, when the budget was finally passed administration and students say there was a collective sigh of relief.

“It’s just a sense of stability,” said Danielle Woodson, a sophomore at UIS. “It’s nice knowing that you don’t have to worry about coming up with the extra money especially for low-income families.”

The state is paying for this year and last year’s map grant funding and all previous years have been back paid.

MAP grant funding returns to Illinois

SIU Alumni React to Budget Cuts

CARBONDALE — Comptroller Susana Mendoza promised the release of $695 million to Illinois higher education, but even though more state money could be on the way, it hasn’t stopped the fear of uncertainty that alumni said is dangerous to the future of higher education.

Thursday, Mendoza released $527 million to higher education. The same day, with the fear of shaky funding, the SIU Board of Trustees voted to permanently cut $19 million from university’s budget.

It’s something that has alumnus Jeffrey Lewis sad to see.

“Schools like Southern Illinois University are developing future leaders, and if you’re cutting back significant amounts of money like that out of this budget, you’re really really hurting the future,” Lewis said.

Lewis graduated from SIU in 1978 in the Political Science program, a program that may see the loss of its master program in the near future. He said cutting back is driving students away to the competition.

“To not invest in those universities, first of all, it’s going to cause your top talent to go out of state,” he said.

Other alums like Rapheal Hayden said what worries them most about the cuts are the futures of the students.

“Honestly, it makes me wonder what’s going to happen with the students,” said the 2013 alum. “If anything, SIU Carbondale needed more upgrades in a lot of different areas.”

They worry the university will be left behind as part of the budget crisis.

“For us to be a lagger in public education is just stupid,” Lewis said. “It’s not only just short sighted: it just doesn’t make any sense.”

Both men said investing in the university is vital to its future as a major institution.

SIU Alumni React to Budget Cuts

SIU’s School of Medicine after effect from the lack of a budget

by Em Nguyen, Fox Illinois


Universities across the state are looking at a 10 percent funding reduction. (WRSP)


A budget is in place but that doesn’t mean universities aren’t feeling the aftermath of the two-year stalemate.

The Springfield’s Southern Illinois University School of Medicine’s biggest hurdle is how resurrecting their oncology-hematology fellowship. SUI was ready to launch the program right before the budget impasse in 2015.

This would give students a hands-on program for the medical field as well as keep students working towards something greater.

Now SIU says the oncology program won’t be able to come back until summer of 2019.

They still need money, approvals, and ‘fellow’ recruitment.

“So I think that adds a whole new level of uncertainty for the schools,” Dr. Aziz Khan Executive Director of the SIU Cancer Institute, “And for the University, I think that is terrible, it’s just scary.”

The fellowship will cost about $450,000 a year.

SIU said they fear universities hurting from the last two years, will continue to see: lost support, fewer professors, and lower enrollment.

Universities across the state are looking at a 10 percent funding reduction.

SIU said this can hurt the way the world looks at Illinois colleges.

SIU’s School of Medicine after effect from the lack of a budget

Illinois’ Public University Problem: NEIU, GSU Presidents Weigh In

Illinois legislators have finally passed a budget, but the two-year-plus impasse did not leave the state’s public universities unscathed: faculty and staff were laid off, student enrollment dwindled and bond ratings were downgraded.

In March, Northeastern Illinois University announced it would lay off 180 full-time employees to balance out a deficit deepening from lack of state funding during the budget standoff.

In a statement released on July 6, the day Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget package vetoes were overridden by House lawmakers, NEIU’s interim President Richard Helldobler wrote the university “can finally after more than two years refocus its efforts from survival to building and enhancing an exceptional environment for its students.”

A Chicago-Sun Times article published Friday took aim at Helldobler for using university funds to pay for a trip to President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.

Using money from the NEIU Foundation, which raises private funds for the school, Helldobler spent nearly $3,000 on a Grand Hyatt hotel room for four nights and close to $1,000 on airfare and two Inaugural Heartland Ball tickets.

Governors State University, located about 30 miles south of Chicago in Will County, will increase its tuition by 15 percent this fall to cope with little-to-no state funding.

The university’s president, Elaine Maimon, said that although the state has a budget, it doesn’t mean Governors State is out of the woods. For that reason, the tuition hike is permanent.

“We’re not going to put on rose-colored glasses,” Maimon said. “The state should be providing us more investment but it doesn’t look as if there’s a pattern for doing that, so it’s looking as if we’re going to have to be more tuition-dependent.”

Maimon pointed out that Governors State’s current full-year tuition, which is $8,160, is still among the most affordable schools in the Chicago area. Starting this fall, the full-year tuition will increase to $9,390.

Helldobler and Maimon join host Phil Ponce to share their perspectives on Illinois’ public universities.

Related stories:

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May 4: Overall state and local government support for higher education across the country fell by $130 per student in 2016, the first time that figure failed to grow in four years. And one group is pointing the finger squarely at Illinois.

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March 28: Paul Vallas and Chicago State University Board Chairman Marshall Hatch discuss the ongoing search for university leadership and what lies ahead for the beleaguered school.

Universities_1102.jpgUniversity Presidents Speak Out on State Stopgap Budget

Nov. 2, 2016: The presidents of four state universities discuss the ongoing impact of Illinois’ budget crisis.

Illinois’ Public University Problem: NEIU, GSU Presidents Weigh In

Lawmakers finally pass state budget: Chancellor, students discuss effects on university

With the state of Illinois passing its first budget since 2015, there are a lot of questions to be answered, specifically questions regarding funding for higher education.

The state went 736 days without a budget and SIUE kept open with 29 percent of the state appropriation for the ‘15-‘16 fiscal year and 53 percent of the state appropriation for ‘16-‘17 fiscal year, according to Chancellor Randy Pembrook.

“We crossed over from June 30 to July 1 and we thought that was the end of the ‘16-‘17 situation, and so when they passed the legislation, they not only acted on ‘17-‘18 funding, but they restored the entire budget for ‘16- ‘17,” Pembrook said.

Katie Stuart, state representative for the 112th district, which emcompasses SIUE, voted against the override of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill 9, but clarified she voted to override Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill 6, which includes the funding for higher education.

“I want to note the importance of higher education statewide and in the area. SIUE is one of the largest employers and having it in a crisis situation wasn’t helping anything,” Stuart said.

Senior accounting major Blake Bamper, of Maryville, also expressed concern about the tax icrease negatively affecting a lot of people, but said the benefits make up for the negatives.

“It’s going to be a tough one to swallow for some people. I think overall, the benefits are gonna outweigh the negatives of the tax hike. The benefits of just having budget outweigh that,” Bamper said. 

Because the bill passed, SIUE will now be able to operate within the original outlined budget, provide Monetary Award Program funding and continue to work on building projects, Pembrook said.

“The backfill for ‘16-‘17 is about 27 to 28 million, the MAP funding for ‘16-‘17 will be between 6 to 7 million dollars. The 90 percent [allocation for] ‘17- ‘18 will be about 53 million dollars and we expect MAP funding for about 7 million dollars,” Pembrook said. 

One of the immediate changes students, faculty and staff will see is the completion of construction on the Science East building, which will be done in the coming Fall.

“The reappropriation for Science East is a 26 million dollar project. They had done about 20 million, so the last, between 6 and 7 million dollars will be coming forward on that,” Pembrook said.

According to Pembrook, Alumni and Founders halls will see renovations after the Science East building is done, and they hope to have two auditoriums up and running in about a month or so. 

The expansion of Dunham Hall to include two new performance facilities, is also on the list of projects to be completed. Because of the state funding and private gifts, they can now move on to the next stage of planning for that renovation.

Senior secondary education and biology major Heather Kotlarczyk, of Hazlewood, Mo., said she can’t think of much that needs to be changed at SIUE, regarding the funding from the budget pass.

“I feel like they should talk to professors about what they want see and that would be a good idea. I like so much about this school I don’t know what I would change or want to see changed,” Kotlarczyk said.

As far as new projects go, Pembrook said there are 8 or 10 things that the he and the budget committee discussed in their meeting Thursday, July 6.

Pembrook said they talked about salaries, marketing and branding, retention initiatives, new programs that could help offer cutting edge things and an innovation fund. They also talked about the teaching excellence center in the library, new staffing and the IT department.

“This isn’t to say that we are going to be able to afford and do all of these, I want to be clear on that, but [these are] things we discussed that maybe can be part of a discussion now,” Pembrook said.

Senior computer science major John Scheibal, of Edwardsville, said he would like to see the school use its funding to bring more professional degrees to the campus.

“I think it needs to have more masters and doctorate like programs. Like if you could go to SIUE and get a degree in law it would draw in so many people. They should focus on making sure people have the opportunity to do what they want and not have to go somewhere else afterwards,” Scheibal said.

SIUE’s Edwardsville campus is not the only place to see continued improvement.

Pembrook said we should see continued improvement on the East. St. Louis and Alton campuses as well, and the progress will move faster because of the funding.

Even though there is now a budget,  Pembrook said they  don’t plan on restoring everything they cut in face of the budget crisis. 

“As the institution begins to evolve, we are trying to make sure that all of things we do have a real purpose and we are efficient in doing them,” Pembrook said.

According to Pembrook, the budget committee has agreed to meet again in about a month and should know more about of distribution of funding and the time in which it will happen.


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Lawmakers finally pass state budget: Chancellor, students discuss effects on university