I’ve you’ve been following the posts and comments on higher ed here, you know Illinois has become a happy hunting ground for out of state universities seeking students, particularly ones you might not of thought of like the University of Alabama. Schools like Alabama are coming in and offering full ride scholarships to Illinois high school students.
This might partially reflect the difficulty of getting into the state’s flagship school in Champaign. Illinois is a huge state versus the size of U of I. Illinois kids are choosing out of state versus one of the directional schools in state.
Now the state of Illinois is trying to halt this flow through bigger grants at in state schools. The Chicago Tribune reports:
For years, Illinois universities have watched as thousands of the state’s best and brightest students headed elsewhere for college.
Lured by generous scholarship offers, and spooked by the state’s budget stalemate and rising tuitions, Illinois students have increasingly pursued their higher education in other states. Enrollment has slid, and Illinois is losing far more local students to other states than it is attracting nonresidents to attend college here. Now, the University of Illinois and a bipartisan group of lawmakers want to change that.
U. of I.’s new program, Illinois Commitment, launches in fall 2019 for freshmen and new transfer students under 24 years old. The program pledges to pay tuition and basic fees for in-state residents accepted to U. of I. and whose family income is $61,000 or less. The family must also have less than $50,000 in assets to be eligible. Posted tuition and fees for in-state students this year are between $16,000 and $21,000, according to U. of I.’s website. Illinois’ truth-in-tuition law requires tuition to remain the same for students for four years.
While Illinois invests more heavily in income-based financial aid, state legislators also focused in on merit-based aid — a tool other states have successfully wielded to lure high-achieveing Illinoisans to their institutions. The University of Alabama, for example, has nearly quintupled its merit scholarship pool over the past decade. Illinois students have followed. Alabama awarded 203 full-tuition scholarships, out of 305 total, to freshman Illinoisans in 2017, defraying more than $100,000 in costs per student.
In response, lawmakers established the AIM HIGH Grant Pilot Program, a merit-based scholarship program for Illinoisans. Starting in 2019, schools can apply to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission for a share of $25 million, which the schools must match with institutional funds. Universities then may award scholarships covering whatever costs the schools determine for admitted full-time students.
The new program is for U of I, which is already 75% or so in-state students. It’s not clear how that can really go up that much. Helping low-income students may be a worthy goal in its own right, however. It sounds like the merit aid scholarships are for all state institutions.
This is something to monitor as demand for higher ed structurally declines starting in about six years. Other states already smell blood in the water when it comes to a financially weakened Illinois.