Finally there’s some movement.
The University of Illinois is taking a significant step by offering free in-state tuition to more families who need financial help. We hope steps like this are repeated across the state, plugging what amounts to a years-long brain drain.
It is needed. The steady attrition of college students to other states is a hidden exodus.
We’ve written plenty about the others hitting the road – the exasperated residents fed up with the second-highest property taxes in America, the business-owners saddled with surging workers comp costs, the companies that can’t stomach the burdens.
States with progressive tax structures, balanced budgets and pro-growth strategies are more than happy to roll out the red carpet to one and all.
Our population has constricted so much that there’s a very real hazard a congressional seat will be stripped away after the next U.S. census.
Students leave for similar financial reasons. U of I’s tuition has a long-standing reputation for being high. Other state schools face similar P.R. problems about costs -- some fair, many not.
Either way, the Illinois Board of Higher Education estimates the number of Illinois first-year students enrolling outside our borders jumped more than 60 percent between 2000 and 2014.
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Our state schools deserve better. Each one has a reason to be proud, and many are world-class institutions.
Instead, students are being lured away by aggressive recruiting and financial perks that lessen loans or the load on parents. Who could blame them?
Like those taxpayers and companies who bolted, many students never come back. Not all, but many. They find friends and connections. They get jobs after graduation and set down roots and open checking accounts. They get new license plates that don’t have Abe Lincoln. They stop being Illinoisans. Gone.
It is a failure of our state. To watch as bright, eager minds fan out beyond the borders speaks to a fundamental problem.
Our educational institutions are stuck in the middle when lawmakers can’t come together on even the most rudimentary parts of their jobs, like penning a state budget. State colleges had to sustain a years-long impasse as haggling continued over what’s essentially the bedrock of the entire government.
And the students keep leaving.
Still, unlike with many issues in Springfield, a group of 12 lawmakers of both parties came together to talk about why students were enrolling elsewhere. Their work created the Illinois Commitment program, which pays tuition and fees for in-state residents whose family income is $61,000 or less.
We hope there is energy for other public schools of higher ed to follow. We hope more scholarships follow. But most of all, we hope what follows is a real commitment by elected officials to fix this broken system harmed by the budget fiasco they unleashed.
We’d like to keep the best and brightest in Illinois.
This will help.