Guest View: Federal tax reform bill will harm college students

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Illinois college students and their families need a high-quality, affordable education now more than ever. Our private colleges and universities have worked hard to provide that quality education at an affordable — and increasingly competitive — price in recent years. But that progress faces a serious threat from Washington.

As the state has made historic funding cuts in the last decade, private campuses across Illinois have invested in students by controlling costs in many ways, seeking alternative ways to generate revenues to provide the high-quality education students need, and streamlining programs to provide more value for students’ investment.

These actions are in response to the needs of the students and families we serve. And in part, these actions address the call from lawmakers to slow down the increasing cost of higher education while still providing access to a college or university that best fits an individual student’s needs.

Now Congress, through its recently unveiled tax reform bill proposal, threatens to throw up additional roadblocks that threaten the financial stability of private nonprofit colleges and universities and their ability to serve students.

One ominous proposal would place a tax on private college endowments. The earnings from endowments, along with private fundraising and other institutional revenues, have long provided scholarships to students as well as base funding for academic programs. Cutting this revenue will decrease funding for needy students and increase the costs to offer programs. In Illinois alone, private colleges and universities annually contribute more than $1 billion in institutional aid, enabling tens of thousands of students to achieve a college degree. Taxing endowments makes little sense if our goal is to increase college participation.

Another part of the proposal would eliminate employer-provided education assistance, which provides much-needed assistance to working students by incentivizing employers to provide tuition assistance benefits. Most recipients of this benefit are non-traditional students trying to improve their skills and workplace mobility. Colleges, businesses and labor organizations all support this important benefit that allows employers to invest in their workforce, while allowing employees the ability to advance their education and experience.

If also enacted, the elimination of tax-exempt bonds for private colleges and universities could significantly raise the cost of capital projects, at a time when the need for infrastructure improvements and safety upgrades (many mandated by government) are greatly needed. This type of bond financing for nonprofits, which meets significant post-issuance disclosure and compliance requirements, is a proven tool with a decades-long record of success for providing vital public services and creating jobs. Low-cost access to capital helps keep private colleges and universities strong, enabling us to keep expenditures low so we can focus on the work we do for the public good and the students and families that we serve.

And there are other provisions that benefit students and institutions that are the target of new taxation. One of these include removing the student loan interest deduction, incredibly important as students start their careers and begin repaying student loans. Another is taxing employee tuition and dependent benefits, which help retain talented staff and would hurt the lowest-paid college employees the most.

A top goal of tax reform should be to support college students and the institutions they attend, not hurt them. Illinois private colleges and universities have a long commitment to providing educational services for the common good. As students succeed, so does our economy and state. Targeting private colleges and universities in this bill could have severe long term consequences, and further deters our national and state goals of having 60 percent of our adults holding some college credential by 2025. Congress should seek ways to encourage the American dream, not shatter it.

David W. Tretter is president of the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities

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November 16, 2017 at 08:18PM

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Guest View: Federal tax reform bill will harm college students

GOP tax plan would hit Illinois private colleges and students hard

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Illinois college students need a high-quality, affordable education now more than ever. Our private colleges and universities have worked hard to provide that quality education at an affordable – and increasingly competitive – price in recent years.

But that progress faces a serious threat from Washington.

OPINION

Even as Illinois has made historic funding cuts in the last decade, private campuses across our state have invested in students by controlling costs in many ways, seeking alternative ways to generate revenues to provide the high-quality education students need, and streamlining programs to provide more value for students’ investment.

These actions are in response to the needs of the students and families we serve. And in part, these actions address the call from lawmakers to slow down the increasing cost of higher education while still providing access to a college or university that best fits an individual student’s needs.

Now Congress, through a tax reform bill that has just been unveiled, threatens to throw up additional roadblocks to the financial stability of private nonprofit colleges and universities and their ability to serve students.

One ominous proposal would place a tax on private college endowments. The earnings from endowments, along with private fundraising and other institutional revenues, have long provided scholarships to students as well as base funding for academic programs. Cutting this revenue will decrease funding for needy students and increase the costs to offer programs.

In Illinois alone, private colleges and universities annually contribute more than $1 billion in institutional aid, enabling tens of thousands of students to achieve a college degree. Taxing endowments makes little sense if our goal is to increase college participation.

Another part of the proposal would eliminate Employer-Provided Education Assistance, which provides much-needed assistance to working students by incentivizing employers to provide tuition assistance benefits. Most recipients of this benefit are non-traditional students trying to improve their skills and workplace mobility. Colleges, businesses and labor organizations all support this important benefit that allows employers to invest in their workforce, while allowing employees the ability to advance their education and experience.

If also enacted, the elimination of tax-exempt bonds for private colleges and universities could significantly raise the cost of capital projects, at a time when the need for infrastructure improvements and safety upgrades (many mandated by government) are greatly needed. This type of bond financing for not-for-profits is a proven tool with a decades-long record of success for providing vital public services and creating jobs.

Low-cost access to capital helps keep private colleges and universities strong, enabling us to keep expenditures low so we can focus on the work we do for the public good and the students and families that we serve.

And there are other provisions that benefit students and institutions that are the target of new taxation. The proposed tax reform bill, for example, would remove the student loan interest deduction, though this is incredibly important as students start their careers and begin repaying student loans. The bill also would tax employee tuition and dependent benefits, which help retain talented staff and would hurt the lowest-paid college employees the most.

A top goal of tax reform should be to support college students and the institutions they attend, not hurt them.

Illinois private colleges and universities have long been committed to providing educational services for the common good. As students succeed, so does our economy and state. Targeting private colleges and universities in this bill could have severe long term consequences, and further deters our national and state goals of having 60 percent of our adults holding some college credential by 2025.

Congress should seek ways to encourage the American dream, not shatter it.

David W. Tretter is president of the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

 

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November 14, 2017 at 11:51AM

GOP tax plan would hit Illinois private colleges and students hard

Getting out: Many students leaving Illinois to attend college

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Illinois has the second-highest rate nationally of college freshmen choosing to leave the state to pursue higher education — a mark it hit even before the state’s two-year budget impasse — and preliminary figures this fall suggest the numbers continue to look grim.

Between 2000 and 2014, when the out-migration hit an all-time high, the number of freshmen leaving Illinois to attend college shot up by about 64 percent, according to a study earlier this year by the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Only New Jersey, which also has had state budget woes, exceeded Illinois in loss of students to out-of-state schools.

The trend was even more pronounced among students attending four-year colleges and universities. Of those freshmen, nearly half chose to attend out of state schools in 2015.

That all-time high was hit even before the state’s colleges and universities weathered the effects of a two-year state budget impasse, which left institutions cutting budgets and programs and put financial aid for thousands of students on hold or in limbo.

But as colleges report preliminary enrollment figures this fall, the numbers suggest that the deadlock only accelerated the trend, which has been fueled by a combination of state financial problems, population shifts and aggressive recruitment by competing states.

Enrollment was down this fall at public schools across the state with the exception of a 2 percent increase at the University of Illinois’ campus in Urbana-Champaign and a 5 percent increase at U of I Chicago, based on preliminary estimates from IBHE. Enrollment dropped by double digits at Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Enrollment at the University of Illinois Springfield campus was down 8.7 percent compared with 2016 to 4,956.

Tom Cross, a veteran Republican legislator named in IBHE chairman in 2016, says the impasse “caused a form of paralysis.”

Costs are factor. A recently completed IBHE analysis of basic tuition and fees for 2016-2017 at U of I in Champaign, University of Chicago and Illinois State University in Normal were significantly below costs at Indiana University, Purdue University and University of Missouri, three schools that compete for Illinois students. But the report noted 66 percent of students at the competing schools receive some type of tuition discount, compared with 59 percent at the Illinois schools.

After discounts, according to the IBHE study, in-state undergraduates paid $8,797 on average compared with $19,522 paid by Illinois undergraduates at the out-of-state schools. Those figures, though are averages — and schools in adjoining states have been especially aggressive in recruiting high academic achievers and offering them competitive financial packages.

“I think we almost have to do a public relations campaign to let people know what the truth is,” Cross said. “We have good schools, and we are very competitive.”

Leaving and not coming back

The out-migration issue has potential long-term effects for Illinois. Students who leave Illinois for school are less likely to return to the state for jobs, the IBHE report found. One-third of those who leave for college take out-of-state jobs, according to the study, compared with less than 10 percent of students who graduate from Illinois schools.

Another source of concern is the report’s finding that the highest achieving high-school graduates were most likely to leave Illinois for college.

Much of the recent blame has fallen on the two-year, spending deadlock between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic-controlled legislature.

In 2014, nearly 33,700 Illinois students decided to leave the state — compared to only 20,507 who did in 2000. Meanwhile, the number of in-state freshmen at Illinois public colleges kept dropping, from 97,001 in 2000 to a then- all-time low of 82,455 by 2014.

Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio were the top outbound destinations.

At Sacred Heart-Griffin High School, guidance counselors have been seeing an increased interest in students going out of state for college. Though the majority of graduating seniors from SHG still attend in-state schools, interest has definitely shifted to the University of Missouri, St. Louis University, Indiana University and the University of Kentucky, said Leslie Seck, SHG’s director of student and family services.

Part of the shift is coming from parents. When teens discuss their college plans with their families, parents cite concerns over the political climate in Illinois, most especially the budget gridlock.

“I think there have been concerns because of the budget impasse,” said Theresa Duffin, SHG’s coordinator of college counseling. “Because (parents) read about the state institutions in the the newspaper, there are concerns.”

Colleges try to fight back

Illinois schools are responding. Presidents of three Illinois university systems — Tim Killeen from the U of I, Southern Illinois’ Randy Dunn and Eastern Illinois’ David Glassman — last month hit the road themselves to make a pitch for in-state schools directly to 170 of the most promising high school students from central and southern Illinois. 

The event focused on top academic performers.

The “Salute to Illinois Scholars,” held in Mount Vernon, was a first-time event traditionally hosted by U of I in Chicago. Downstate schools were added this year in view of out-migration trends and the uncertainty resulting from the budget deadlock.

As an incentive, the schools offered to waive application fees.

“In my keynote, we talked about the budget (impasse) and that we know that some high-school counselors, and some people in the state, are questioning whether it’s a good idea to stay in Illinois,” said Barbara Wilson, executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs for the University of Illinois System.

“We told them we have a budget now, we’re all doing well,” said Wilson. “We have plans to move ahead on strategic goals.”

— Voice Editor Carla Jimenez contributed to this article. Contact Tim Landis: tim.landis@sj-r.com, 788-1536, http://twitter.com/timlandisSJR.

***

Programs, money, word of mouth fuel students’ decisions to depart Illinois

Jenna Tansky knew she would likely leave Illinois to pursue her love of dance in college.

The 21-year-old Dawson native currently studies dance at Southeast Missouri State University. She takes modern, jazz, ballet and tap at the university’s new River Campus.

Tansky, who has been dancing since she was 5 years old, first heard about the school from a girl she used to dance with at the Kinner and Company Dance Studio.

“A girl from my hometown dance studio went to SEMO … and she knew about the River Campus and the dance program they have there, and she told me about it,” Tansky said. “After that, I just went and toured and really liked it there. So I chose to go there.”

As more Illinois students choose to enroll in out-of-state schools, colleges in neighboring states have been attracting the largest numbers. According to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the top out-of-state destinations in 2014 were the University of Missouri, the University of Iowa, Indiana University and Iowa State University.

SEMO, however, has also seen a sharp uptick in the number of incoming students from Illinois. According to the office for Enrollment Management and Student Success, there were 674 Illinois freshmen at SEMO in 2007, which accounted for 7.33 percent of all freshmen. In 2016, that number nearly doubled to 1,241 and 11.61 percent.

Debbie Below, SEMO’s vice president for enrollment management and student success, said the university has an enrollment presence in surrounding states, but they have two admissions officers for Illinois — compared to just one officer covering Kentucky and Tennessee.

“Student recruitment has changed,” Below said. “Digital marketing is very important, but so is face-to-face recruitment.”

Tansky’s aspirations took her out of state for college, and she’s one of many young people who have left Illinois to attend school. Their reasons all vary: Some of them consider out-of-state schools for financial reasons. Some of them leave because another school has a better program. Some leave because they just want to get away from home for a while.

Tansky wanted to see what life was like away from her small hometown.

She was one of 41 students in her graduating class at Tri-City High School, where she was salutatorian. She said she knew pretty much her whole life that she wanted to dance, but she also wanted to go out of state.

Another reason for the increased presence of Illinois students is the comparable tuition. SEMO offers an academic scholarship called the Midwest Achievement Award, which offers in-state tuition to out-of-state students who have a 21 on their ACT and a 3.0 high school grade-point average.

The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition is considerable: Those who qualify for the award pay $6,183 per semester, while those who don’t pay $11,718.

Tansky qualified for the award, which was another reason SEMO was a good choice for her.

“(The scholarship) was a big thing for me to be able to afford going out of state,” she said.

Below said while she likes to believe that SEMO’s academic program and facilities are the biggest draws for Illinois students, she also understands that the state’s political situation might be a factor as to why they keep leaving.

“I would like to think the university is putting that best effort forward,” she said. “I certainly understand that the budget situation has created a bit of a challenge for Illinois students … But I do think it’s more that as we enroll students, they go and tell their friends and they go and recommend their experience.”

Jessica Maron, a 20-year-old Bloomington native studying English at Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri, has been keeping track of Illinois’ political situation from afar.

“Our government seems to be going through a very tough time,” she said. “I would not put the full blame on the Illinois government. I know that there’s been a mess, but the mess is coming from the financial gap.”

Maron, who attended Normal Community High School, has also noticed the large exodus of Illinois students into neighboring states. Columbia is also home to the University of Missouri, where many of her former high school classmates attend.

“If I walked onto Mizzou campus and threw a rock, I’d probably hit one of my former classmates,” she said.

— Carla Jimenez

***

Springfield’s challenge: How to lure students to come back home

Attracting and keeping young professionals has been high on the list of a variety of economic-development strategies in Springfield.

Students who leave Illinois to attend college are less likely to come back to work and live than their counterparts who attend in-state schools.  A little more than 90 percent of students who attend Illinois schools eventually go-to-work in the state, compared with two-thirds of students who attend out-of-state schools, according to a study by the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

One way to reverse the trend is to catch students early and often, starting in high school, according to coordinators at the Quantum Growth Partnership, the chief economic-development campaign of The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

There has been an even greater emphasis as demographics from studies from the last two years show slow growth and an aging population over the next decade.

“It’s something we definitely are aware of. We’re always looking at the numbers,” said Sarah Graham, chamber director of workforce development. “We want to help them see the career opportunities in Springfield.”

Strategies include career-assessment software, social media outreach, internships, job shadowing and leadership training programs. Graham said the chamber is exploring the possibility of extending the program to middle schools.

Springfield native Caitlin Simhauser graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2009 with a degree in marketing. After stops in Austin, Texas, and Nashville, Tennessee, she returned to Springfield in 2011 to take a job with pharmaceutical wholesaler H.D. Smith Co. of Springfield, where she is a senior marketing coordinator.

Simhauser works with Elevate Springfield, a networking initiative of the chamber to promote the city to young professionals.

“Living in Lexington (Kentucky), Nashville and Austin, I was exposed to energetic and progressive cities and peoples, lots of outdoor recreation, vibrant food and music scenes, and niche industries,” Simhauser said in an email.

Springfield could do a better job of promoting itself to young professionals, said Simhauser, including by focusing on the downtown historic-commercial district as a center for arts, entertainment, niche shopping and food.

“Some say there’s nothing to do in Springfield, but I’d argue that maybe you just don’t know where to look,” said Simhauser. “Springfield has its own unique culture, opportunities and vibes.”

— Tim Landis

***

Public sector uncertainty affects private schools

Private universities did not escape the damage from a two-year state budget deadlock.

“It was devastating to all universities, public and private,” said David Tretter, president of The Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities.

Data from the Illinois Board of Higher Education, which tracks public and private enrollment, showed 263,354 students attending not-for-profit and for-profit private schools in the fall of 2016. The figure was little changed from 2015. The number, however, was down 9.1 percent from 2012.

Tretter said uncertainty in the public-school sector spills over to private schools. The association represents 60 private colleges and universities.

“It’s kind of baked into their thinking,” said Tretter. “A  parent or a student is looking ahead one or two or four years. It’s really given those folks a lot of pause in looking at their options.”

Grants through the state-funded Monetary Assistance Program were caught up in the budget impasse. The income-based grants, which can be used at approved private schools are a key source of funding for Illinois students who might not otherwise to able to afford college. MAP funding was approved for the fiscal year that ends in June 2018, but Tretter said it would take time to undo the uncertainty that faced college-bound students and parents.

Blackburn College, a small private liberal arts school in Carlinville, last month announced that qualified Macoupin County high-school students could attend the school free through the new Macoupin Promise program.

Students must meet normal admission standards, participate in the school work program and live in households with family income less than $60,000 a year. The program also is aimed at keeping graduates in Macoupin County.

Tretter said he expects similar creative efforts among private schools statewide as a way to counteract the uncertainty left by the two-year budget deadlock.

“It’s was a predicable consequence,” said Tretter. “We need predicable funding and, yes, you can’t go two years without a budget.”

— Tim Landis

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September 30, 2017 at 11:57PM

Getting out: Many students leaving Illinois to attend college

Sounding the Alarm: Thriving higher education system needed to create strong economy in Illinois

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One could argue the state’s nearly two-year budget impasse has been most visible at the state’s public universities and community colleges.

Students aren’t getting their MAP grants. Faculty, staff and administrators are being laid off. There is concern one or more of the state’s public universities might shut its doors. In just one day in April, the bond ratings of six universities were downgraded, as rating agency S&P determined the uncertainty of state funding for higher education made them a bad risk for investors.

Perhaps most embarrassing was this: In April, a national report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers association on higher education finances in 2016 spotlighted Illinois as an outlier. That status was cemented due to per-student funding falling by 80 percent year over year, from $10,986 to $2,196, while enrollment at public institutions plunged by 46,000 students (or 11 percent).

Illinois was so bad that if you include it in the report, overall public support for higher education funding fell by 1.8 percent. Remove the Land of Lincoln, and overall support for higher education nationally increased by 3.2 percent.

Illinois needs outstanding higher education facilities that produce knockout research, breathtaking innovation and graduates eager to conquer the world. To do that, universities and colleges need focused strategic plans — and that is only going to happen when there is stability that comes from having a state budget.  

As in other sectors, pension reform (see Thursday’s editorial of our Sounding the Alarm series for more) is key to freeing up more resources for instruction. A study of Illinois by the State Higher Education Executive Officers found that in fiscal year 2015, retirement appropriations consumed 44.3 percent of the total funding for higher education in Illinois. In 2007, it had been just 10.3 percent.

That’s a depressing and sobering shift. In fiscal year 2000, about $218.2 million in state funding was dedicated to pensions, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, and $2.13 billion went to operations funding. Fast forward to fiscal year 2015 (the last year there was a permanent state budget), and $1.55 billion went to pay off pension debt — nearly as much as the $1.95 billion the state spent on the actual teaching, research and support operations.

And who has borne the brunt of that shift? Students and their parents have forked over more to help bridge the difference. Average tuition and fees at public universities in Illinois were $4,786 in fiscal year 2002. They had more than tripled to $13,462 by fiscal year 2015, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

The restructuring of the state’s pension debt will free up significant funds to actually be spent on instructional costs. So would making all new hires go into a self-managed plan retirement (already an option in the State University Retirement System), and allowing any current employees the option of switching to such a plan.

But stable funding is just a start for retooling our institutions of higher education. It’s time for a thorough examination of what they should be and a commitment to making our institutions centers of achievement that spur economic growth in Illinois.

Most of the four-year public universities in Illinois were established as regional education centers. They offered similar programs, with the thinking that students in those areas wouldn’t have to travel far for their education. That made sense 100 years ago when traveling was more difficult, but if the number of students who are heading out of state for college is any indication, they are willing to travel if it means access to excellent programs.

Universities are, and need to remain, the economic drivers of their home communities. Figures shared by the Illinois Coalition to Invest in Higher Education show that colleges and universities in Illinois employ 175,000 people statewide and generate more than $50 billion in economic activity. For every $1 the state spends on higher ed, it gets $25 back. It’s an outstanding value.

But each campus should have designated areas of specialization. In today’s specialized world, universities must adapt and put aside the notion that they can be all things to all people. Program offerings should be evaluated, and under-enrolled programs must be pruned, allowing institutions to focus on their strongest offerings.

Doing that might mean revamping the structure of the schools: Does each one need a board, or should we perhaps mirror our neighbor to the north? The University of Wisconsin system oversees 13 four-year universities and 13 freshman-sophomore UW Colleges campuses, which provides efficiencies in administration. Illinois needs to examine that. A 2015 report by the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus found that the number of full-time administrative staff at public universities ballooned by 31.1 percent from 2004 to 2010. But during the same time period, the number of full-time faculty increased by just 1.8 percent, and there was only a 2.3 percent increase in part- and full-time students.

The last two years of belt tightening in the absence of a budget and funding have likely changed those numbers, and we understand the definition of “administration” in Illinois needs to be refined as it can include positions that no one would consider administration.

We aren’t ready to recommend a UW System of management — but we believe it’s a question that needs to be answered, and the Illinois Board of Higher Education should start that conversation now as a means toward setting a solid plan for the system’s future.

But make no mistake — the governor and General Assembly need to resolve the budget crisis and make the investment in higher ed that Illinois needs to make it a competitive, healthy state. 

— Coming Sunday in the State Journal-Register Editorial Board’s Sounding the Alarm series: Changes to taxes and consolidating governments needed to get Illinois’ fiscal ship in order.

About this series

Illinois is the only state in America without a budget, a failure that digs it deeper into debt each day. But the lack of a budget is not the only serious problem that the state’s leaders must take action on. “Sounding the Alarm,” is an eight-day special report that the Register Star and The Journal-Standard are publishing in conjunction with their sister paper in Springfield, The State Journal-Register.

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May 19, 2017 at 09:39AM

Sounding the Alarm: Thriving higher education system needed to create strong economy in Illinois

Letter to the Editor: Higher education funding cuts are urgent issue for all Illinois residents, NU students

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As the end of the spring legislative session in Springfield arrives, hope for a better tomorrow perseveres. Both political parties share some common goals: keep Illinoisans from leaving, attract more residents, business and jobs and turn our state’s fortunes around.

But with every day that lawmakers and the governor are unable to reach agreement on a full state budget, one critical component to reach these goals — our college and university campuses around the state — suffers very real damage.

It’s clear higher education needs to improve in some key areas, from becoming more efficient and eliminating duplicative programs to taking on charges of administrative bloat. But at what cost? Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed cuts to higher education in his latest budget address, and that follows 15 years of funding cuts to Monetary Award Program grants and operating funds for Illinois colleges and universities that have combined to defund, demoralize and dismantle what was once one of the nation’s leading higher education systems.

According to a recent study by the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities, Northwestern is a huge economic engine in Evanston and the surrounding communities with an estimated economic impact of over $3 billion annually. And this number doesn’t include capital expenditure, federal research grants or athletic events. This makes NU an important partner, along with 59 other independent institutions across the state that employ almost 68,000 statewide and create an overall economic impact of over $20 billion annually in Illinois.

Last year, more than 500 NU students received need-based grants from the state through MAP. MAP recipients are by definition are students with the fewest financial resources to attend college, and the MAP grant is a critical piece of a puzzle (along with other grants, loans and work) to make college possible. Without MAP, many of these students simply won’t attend college. And MAP students, often first-generation and minority, greatly enhance the quality, diversity and overall college experience for all NU students.

As the state has cut more than $1 billion from higher education funding and aid for students between 2000 to 2015, we fail to appreciate how much a role colleges and universities play to provide higher average salaries, better health, longer employment, more tax support for local services and much more. And with the House, Senate and governor debating further cuts, it is important to realize that slashing higher education is hypocritical and counterproductive, causing students to choose out-of-state schools or skip college altogether.

It’s time for the NU community — the students, families, educators, administrators, alumni and everyone in the Evanston area who depend on NU — to mobilize. Contact your state representatives, senators and the governor through calls, emails, social media messages and in-person visits to let them know it’s time to end the impasse and make NU and all Illinois colleges and universities as valued as they are valuable to our state.

Dave Tretter, president of the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities

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May 14, 2017 at 03:43PM

Letter to the Editor: Higher education funding cuts are urgent issue for all Illinois residents, NU students

Spotlight: Slashing college funding hypocritical, counterproductive

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Peoria and Caterpillar are closely linked, and for many good economic reasons. But as you cross into the city on I-74 over the Illinois River, it’s hard to think another set of employers generating more than $400 million a year locally could be ignored. Yet that’s exactly what is happening at the state Capitol.

In his budget address, Gov. Rauner again proposed cuts to higher education. He called for a small increase in funds for the Monetary Award Program, but MAP grants haven’t been funded this year. The last two years of devastating funding cuts to Illinois colleges and universities are only an extreme example of 15 years of devaluing and dismantling this state’s once nationally ranked higher education system.

Higher education has its perception problems: inefficiency, duplicative programs and administrative bloat. But try telling the leaders of many communities around the state that those concerns are worth the costs of draconian funding cuts.

In Peoria, Bradley University, Methodist College and Illinois Central College generate 1,800 jobs and $415 million in local economic impact. That is far from unique. From Rockford to Carbondale, Quincy to Champaign, colleges and universities drive local economies and prepare our next generation of workers and leaders. Yet the longer this budget impasse runs, the more paralyzed our system becomes — and the more the costs of this crisis grow.

We take higher education for granted. As the state has cut more than $1 billion from 2000-2015 — 36.4 percent — in higher education funding and aid for students, we fail to appreciate how much a role colleges and universities play in providing higher average salaries, better health, longer employment, more tax support for local services and more.

As the House, Senate and governor debate approving a full-year budget or more short-term help, higher education withers away. It’s not that our policymakers can’t recognize the need for urgent action. When Exelon, Sears and CME needed help, or when other businesses asked for incentives to stay and expand here, those calls were addressed. Why not higher education? After all, it’s a mammoth employer: $50 billion in economic impact annually, with 800,000 students and 175,000 employees in more than 200 locations.

Slashing higher ed is hypocritical and counterproductive. Students are choosing out-of-state schools or skipping college altogether. Others decide not to come back after going away. Talented faculty and staff are laid off or leaving for opportunities elsewhere.

Until the trend in funding for higher education is reversed, the promise of a better Illinois is an illusion.

 

David W. Tretter is president of the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities and a leader of the Illinois Coalition to Invest in Higher Education. He lives in Springfield.

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May 12, 2017 at 11:50AM

Spotlight: Slashing college funding hypocritical, counterproductive

Spotlight: Slashing college funding hypocritical, counterproductive

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Peoria and Caterpillar are closely linked, and for many good economic reasons. But as you cross into the city on I-74 over the Illinois River, it’s hard to think another set of employers generating more than $400 million a year locally could be ignored. Yet that’s exactly what is happening at the state Capitol.

In his budget address, Gov. Rauner again proposed cuts to higher education. He called for a small increase in funds for the Monetary Award Program, but MAP grants haven’t been funded this year. The last two years of devastating funding cuts to Illinois colleges and universities are only an extreme example of 15 years of devaluing and dismantling this state’s once nationally ranked higher education system.

Higher education has its perception problems: inefficiency, duplicative programs and administrative bloat. But try telling the leaders of many communities around the state that those concerns are worth the costs of draconian funding cuts.

In Peoria, Bradley University, Methodist College and Illinois Central College generate 1,800 jobs and $415 million in local economic impact. That is far from unique. From Rockford to Carbondale, Quincy to Champaign, colleges and universities drive local economies and prepare our next generation of workers and leaders. Yet the longer this budget impasse runs, the more paralyzed our system becomes — and the more the costs of this crisis grow.

We take higher education for granted. As the state has cut more than $1 billion from 2000-2015 — 36.4 percent — in higher education funding and aid for students, we fail to appreciate how much a role colleges and universities play in providing higher average salaries, better health, longer employment, more tax support for local services and more.

As the House, Senate and governor debate approving a full-year budget or more short-term help, higher education withers away. It’s not that our policymakers can’t recognize the need for urgent action. When Exelon, Sears and CME needed help, or when other businesses asked for incentives to stay and expand here, those calls were addressed. Why not higher education? After all, it’s a mammoth employer: $50 billion in economic impact annually, with 800,000 students and 175,000 employees in more than 200 locations.

Slashing higher ed is hypocritical and counterproductive. Students are choosing out-of-state schools or skipping college altogether. Others decide not to come back after going away. Talented faculty and staff are laid off or leaving for opportunities elsewhere.

Until the trend in funding for higher education is reversed, the promise of a better Illinois is an illusion.

 

David W. Tretter is president of the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities and a leader of the Illinois Coalition to Invest in Higher Education. He lives in Springfield.

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May 12, 2017 at 11:50AM

Spotlight: Slashing college funding hypocritical, counterproductive