More investment needed for independent colleges and universities

After so much uncertainty and so much challenge, this should be a time of hope and optimism for students attending Illinois institutions of higher learning, especially the independent, nonprofit colleges and universities that I represent in Springfield.

For many, it’s a time to look forward to better days. The Illinois state budget just signed into law by Governor JB Pritzker includes a dramatic increase in funding for the monetary scholarship program – the essential lifeline for so many needy Illinois students who can use the grant at one of the state’s high-quality independent colleges and universities.

A $122 million increase to the MAP grant program for low-income students will mean that the maximum grant per student could exceed $7,000 – a significant increase from the “effective” $5,340 grant cap of the last year. This increase in funding will allow for more MAP scholarships to be awarded to eligible students at public or independent colleges and universities, at a higher average scholarship amount. As recently as 2018, nearly 100,000 scholarship-eligible students lost out due to a lack of funding.

Millions of new dollars will also be directed to institutions to increase minority teachers, nursing education and skills training for healthcare workers. This is vitally important, as independent state colleges and universities award nearly 40% of all teaching degrees, as well as 54% of all health-related degrees.

Our federation has long called for steady, predictable, and meaningful increases in MAP funding as a direct way to benefit all Illinois colleges and universities, public and private. When students receive more support, it greatly increases the chances that they will not only attend higher education, but persist in earning a college degree, thereby maximizing state investment.

The return on this investment is massive and doubly important because independent colleges and universities in Illinois enroll more students each year than public universities in the state. And graduates of these institutions live and work across our state, pay higher payroll taxes, use fewer social services, and become more civically involved in their local communities. The colleges and universities themselves have a huge economic impact statewide, employing more than 68,000 faculty and staff, while injecting more than $21 billion annually into the Illinois economy.

We are grateful to Governor Pritzker, Speaker of the House Chris Welch, Speaker of the Senate Don Harmon, and strong majorities in the Illinois House and Senate for pumping some of the state’s recent good fortunes back into our system. of higher education. These decisions will reap huge rewards, just years after the 2015-2017 state budget stalemate threatened to decimate our higher education system and the COVID-19 pandemic added another blow.

With all of this unexpected good news, however, comes the sad reality that our work is not nearly done. It’s only just begun.

Two years ago, MacMurray College in central Illinois announced a devastating closure decision. Just a few weeks ago, just up Interstate 55 from Springfield, leaders at Lincoln College made the same painful announcement.

The reasons are multiple: the state budget impasse, COVID-19, a drop in high school diploma holders. But I fear that other schools — especially those like the MacMurray and Lincoln federation members with so little room for error — will suffer the same fate.

Higher education is at the heart of a highly competitive market. Campuses need to offer the best options, with the most flexibility, at the best possible price to stay relevant in an increasingly global competition for students. Campuses have closed in the past because they could no longer compete, and this will inevitably happen again.

My appeal to our Heads of State is to build on the momentum of this spring session. To make ongoing and sustainable investments in our institutions and our students. Give all Illinois colleges and universities the best possible chance to continue transforming lives. We all win with a healthy system supported to do our best from Springfield. We will be there to work with you to make it happen.

David W. Tretter is president of the Federation of Independent Colleges and Universities of Illinois in Springfield.

Previous Top 6 Hidden Ways A VPN Can Save You Money Now
Next American Community College Admissions System