Gov. Bruce Rauner made a decision on Aug. 21 that may stop the flood of high school students leaving the state to go to college.
As of 2016, Illinois was the state that retained the least high school students at in-state public universities.
The New York Times reported that other states may be more attractive to prospective students, because while tuition is rising in Illinois, students are receiving less financial aid.
The Illinois Board of Higher Education reported higher education spending was about $1.1 billion for the 2017-18 school year.
Last June, Illinois’ $38.5 million dollar overall budget increased spending on higher education by 2 percent. In addition, it now provides for a new scholarship program, consisting of six bills, to help keep Illinois students in the state for college. The program will be called the AIM High Grant Pilot Program.
In 2016, data from the New York Times showed that 2,117 students came from out-of-state high schools to Illinois for public college, whereas 16,461 students left for other states, most often Missouri. Rauner’s office said undergraduate enrollment fell by more than 5,000 students between 2011 and 2016.
The Herald Review reported overall enrollment at public universities is declining; In fall 2009, there were 204,781 students, whereas in fall 2016, there were 188,405.
Part of that could be the fact that Illinois spent a good chunk of those years without a budget to fund higher education.
Legislators are now taking action to fight against the outflux of young students. Since June, the Illinois General Assembly has been working on changing the existing grant program, Monetary Award Program.
On Aug. 26, Rauner officially signed the measure, which will offer up to $25 million in merit-based aid to be matched by Illinois public universities and given to Illinois students, according to the Associated Press.
According to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, the MAP provides grants to Illinois residents who are attending Illinois colleges and demonstrate financial need. The grants do not need to be repaid, and are determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
The AIM High Grant Pilot Program was introduced by the bipartisan higher education working group and will be portioning out aid to universities based on the amount of undergraduate Illinois residents each university enrolls. For the 2017 school year, 82.5 percent of SIUE’s incoming freshmen were from Illinois.
State Representative for the 36th District Kelly Burke and Rauner have said the new program will serve as a tool to keep students inside the state as well as make higher education more affordable for them.
“We have a lot of students whose family income is above the threshold for Pell and MAP (grants), so they don’t qualify for any of the need-based financial aid,” Burke told The Daily Illini. “But the families also don’t have $20,000 sitting around them to go to school, so people end up borrowing.”
The program has a budget of $25 million for the year, but is able to double the amount of aid because the universities will be matching the state’s amount.
Recipients of the grant cannot have a family income that totals more than six times the national poverty rate, and they will have to provide grade point averages and national test scores. To find out if they are eligible for the program and how to apply, students can go to www.isac.org. More information on the program can be found at http://www.isac.org/newsroom/isac-in-the-news/.