University proposes new financial aid commitment

Piggy bank next to a graduation cap and diplomaUniversity of Illinois President Tim Killeen announced a proposal March 15 that would provide a minimum of $170 million in annual financial aid over five years to keep talented Illinois high school graduates in the state for college and stem a growing outflow of students to out-of-state schools.

The Invest in Illinoisans, or Triple I program, was announced March 16 as an amendment to the proposed U of I Investment, Performance, and Accountability Commitment (IPAC), a measure pending in the legislature that would provide predictable funding for university operations over the next five years in exchange for tangible performance goals that serve the needs of the state.

Killeen said the proposal would build on the U of I System’s ongoing efforts to retain Illinois students for college and after graduation, citing studies that show most college graduates stay in the state where they earn their degrees.

“We want to make sure our best-and-brightest students study right here at home and then use the talents they nurture at our three great universities to move Illinois forward,” Killeen told the Board of Trustees during its regular meeting March 15 in Urbana.

Along with driving economic growth, he said college-educated citizens bring a host of other benefits to the state. Studies show they are healthier and live longer, and are more likely to vote and volunteer in their communities.

If IPAC is approved, the program would provide $850 million in financial aid for Illinois undergraduates over the term of the five-year agreement. The $170 million in annual financial aid for in-state students amounts to 85 percent of total institutional aid, which has grown to about $200 million annually. Total institutional aid just five years ago was $136 million and only $68 million a decade ago. If financial aid continues to grow through philanthropy and other sources, the U of I System would commit to devote 85 percent of that growth to in-state students during the five-year term of IPAC.

Killeen said ramping up investment in Illinois undergraduates is critical to halt an out-migration that has left Illinois second only to New Jersey in the net number of students lost to colleges in other states. In 2015, 45 percent of college-bound high school graduates in Illinois enrolled out of state, up from 29 percent in 2002.
In surveys of students admitted to the U of I System who choose another college, financial barriers are cited in eight of the top 10 reasons, he said.

Killeen said the proposed financial aid program would build on the U of I System’s longstanding commitment to support Illinois students and families. System-wide, more than 80 percent of undergraduates last fall were Illinois residents – 94 percent in Chicago, 83 percent in Springfield and 73 percent in Urbana-Champaign.
The proposal is an amendment to IPAC, which was first introduced in November, then reintroduced in January when a new General Assembly convened.

Killeen said IPAC is an innovative way forward through Illinois’ current financial challenges, providing financial certainty for the U of I System in exchange for performance-based standards that serve Illinois students and the needs of the state.

The U of I System proposed the shift to performance-based funding and worked with legislators to negotiate terms and draft House Bill 2996 and Senate Bill 222, sponsored by Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside), Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago), and a bipartisan coalition of co-sponsors from the U of I Caucus.
Under the proposal, the state would provide a fiscal year 2018 appropriation of $647 million, matching the U of I System’s last post-rescission appropriation in fiscal year 2015, and funding would increase by the rate of inflation during the each remaining year of the five-year pact. The state also would adopt regulatory reforms to improve efficiency across the System.

In return, the U of I System would commit to performance standards including holding tuition and mandated fee increases for in-state undergraduates to no more than the rate of inflation, admissions thresholds to build on enrollment of Illinois undergraduates, and high retention and graduation rates.

“IPAC reaffirms our commitment to the people of Illinois,” Killeen said. “And the Triple I program ratifies our land-grant commitment to open our doors to every deserving Illinois student – providing levels of financial aid for in-state students over the next five years that would be unprecedented in our 150-year history.”