Higher Education Access

Illinois loses more high school graduates to out-of-state colleges than any other state but New Jersey. While there are a multitude of reasons for this, college affordability is a significant one. As Springfield was embroiled in a budget crisis, higher education took a big hit. Institutions tightened their belts and closed programs, and students waited in limbo to see if their Monetary Awards Program (MAP) grants would be funded.

Illinois falls chronically short on providing MAP funding, currently covering about half of the total cost of eligibility. The grants have also failed to keep pace with inflation. A 2002 MAP grant would fully cover tuition and fees at a public university; today, the grant would cover about one-third of the cost.

An initiative from Gov. Pritzker became law in 2019 requiring schools to support every student to complete a FAFSA, which is the first step in obtaining state and federal aid for college. This is important for students, especially first-generation college-goers, who might not understand what sources of grants and loans are available. It keeps the door open to post-secondary opportunities for students. More must also be done to fund MAP grants, as well as other recommendations outlined in Stand’s “Stop Illinois Brain Drain” report.

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