Legislation allowing Illinois universities to better compete for students clears General Assembly

Legislation aimed at helping attract more students to universities in Illinois by creating a four-year Monetary Award Program (MAP grants) has been approved by the Illinois General Assembly. 

House Bill 5020, co-sponsored by State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris), is an effort to reverse the trends of enrollment declines at most universities throughout the state. 

“Schools outside Illinois can guarantee four-year MAP grants, financial aid packages that make a big difference when recruiting students,” Rezin said. “Illinois cannot make that guarantee currently, and that’s costing us students. This legislation would give the same tool-kit to universities in Illinois when they make a pitch to students. That would help us compete for students on a much higher level.” 

House Bill 5020 would allow Illinois students who receive a MAP grant to have their grant renewal prioritized, rather than endure the current “first-come, first-serve” process every year. This includes all institutions of higher education in Illinois.  

Rezin also supported the Fiscal Year 2019 budget signed into law that adds a new, merit-based scholarship program (AIM HIGH) funded by $25 million from the state and a matching $25 million from universities to help retain Illinois students. Conditions for the scholarship would include Illinois citizenship and meeting benchmark GPA and test scores.  

“The need for higher education to make changes to its system is critical, or the rapid outmigration of students will only continue,” Rezin said. “This ‘brain-drain’ is hurting Illinois’ universities, local communities, and the state now, and it will be devastating to Illinois’ future if it continues. These simple, but critical reforms send a strong message to students and their families that we want you in Illinois. Keeping the best and brightest in our state is imperative for our future.” 

From 1991 to 2014, enrollment at Illinois public universities and community colleges declined by 50,000 students. Since the 1960s, Illinois has been a net negative exporter of college students in the country, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. 

More recent trends paint a similar picture. From 2011 to 2016, undergraduate enrollment at Illinois public universities fell 5,127 students, a decline of more than eight percent. Over that same time period, a majority of universities in Illinois saw undergraduate declines: 

Chicago State: -57%

Eastern Illinois: -40.4%

Northeastern: -21.4%

Western Illinois: -20.4%

Northern Illinois: -18.2%

Southern Illinois Carbondale: -17.5%

Illinois Springfield: -6%

Illinois State: -.7%

Only four Illinois public universities saw increases in their undergraduate enrollment in that same time period:

Governor’s State: 26.5%

Illinois at Chicago: 8.5%

Illinois Urbana-Champaign: 4.5%

Southern Illinois Edwardsville: 1.1%

House Bill 5020 now heads to Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature.

For more information on MAP grants: http://www.isac.org/students/during-college/types-of-financial-aid/grants/monetary-award-program/

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