Massive budget cuts and funding uncertainty in the aftermath of Governor Bruce Rauner’s brutal two-year budget impasse have pushed Illinois college students to out-of-state schools in record numbers.
Of Illinois’s 12 state-funded universities, ten experienced declined enrollments in 2017. In addition, the number of Illinois students leaving the state for college has accelerated “during recent years, particularly during the budget impasse,” according to Al Bowman, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education and former president of Illinois State University.
Forty-six percent of 2016 graduates from Illinois attending four-year schools chose schools out of state. “It’s deeply troubling and I choose those words carefully,” said Bowman.
While funding and enrollment have been declining for some time, the problem was made dramatically worse by the budget impasse, during which Illinois colleges were forced to institute furloughs, lay off hundreds of staff, raise tuition, and eliminate academic programs.
Governor Rauner however, has yet to address the crisis. Since taking office in 2015, he has cut $2.3 billion from higher education. In July, the Governor vetoed a bill that increased funding for education by $714 million. The bill funded the universities and provided for lower-income student grants, called MAP grants for both FY 2017 and FY 2018.
“The divestment in Illinois public higher education must stop now,” Illinois college presidents recently wrote to the Illinois Board of Higher Education. “The continued lack of support threatens to further erode confidence in the state and its institutions of higher learning.”
In addition to their pleas to the Rauner administration for its support, universities are seeking ways to improve their programming and recruit more students, both in-state and out of state, despite the Governor’s actions.