Education Desk: Coalition Warns Illinois Will Lose More College Students Due To Budget Chaos

Jan 21, 2016

Pedro Cevallos-Candau, co-founder of Primera, addresses the media as other members of the Illinois Coalition to Invest in Higher Education look on.
Credit Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois colleges and universities have gone seven months with zero state funding – that includes funding of MAP grants that help poor students pay tuition. Now, some business and labor leader have joined students calling for lawmakers to resolve the budget stalemate. 

Mitch Dickey, student body president at the University of Illinois' Urbana campus, brought to the statehouse a variety of stakeholders -- business owners, labor leaders, and of course students -- to explain how having MAP grants yanked out from under students is affecting them all. After a solid hour of poignant stories and questions from the media, Dickey -- a senior from Bourbonnais -- admitted there's only one thing he knows for sure


"You know, I don't know that any of us can really say what kind of impact this is definitely going to have. I think you're still going to have your Illinois students coming in," he said. "But I know, for a fact, that you're going to see a lot of students that are going to be looking really out of state, that really do know what's happening in the state of Illinois and just want to leave."


Dave Tretter, president of the Federation of Independent Colleges, said his organization represents about 60 private colleges that get no state funding other than MAP grants -- the Monetary Award Program funds awarded to low-income students. Many schools have told students they'll have to repay the portion of tuition the state failed to cover. Tretter says students will turn to neighboring states.


"This is the best way to drive the talent immediately out of Illinois. Certainly other states -- Iowa, Missouri -- are already ramping up their efforts to come after our best and brightest," he said. "So I think there is faith, still, and an expectation that the legislature and the governor won't let this happen." 


What no one on the panel mentioned is that Illinois already ranks second highest in the nation for net out-migration of high school graduates to colleges in other states. And that was before the state budget impasse left higher education without funding. 


The Illinois Coalition to Invest in Higher Education includes Chris Harbourt, co-founder and CEO of Agrible; Tom Livingston, and official with the CSX; and Pedro Cevallos-Candau, co-founder and co-CEO of Primera.