Local school officials say the college choices for Illinois high school students may be getting swayed by the state budget impasse.
Jacksonville High School Counselor Sherri McLaughlin, on WLDS’ “What’s On Your Mind?” program on Monday, says as students statewide face a deadline in several weeks to pick a school, they’re picking outside the Land of Lincoln for a variety of reasons.
Since MAP grants for low-income students have been suspended by the state, and public colleges and universities are not getting state aid since the current budget year began last July, McLaughlin says a number of high school seniors are choosing schools with the best financial aid packet.
“That has become a big issue. We’re seeing more students that are saying, ‘I’ll just go to my local community college’- which a lot of them were doing, anyway, if they didn’t know for sure what they wanted to major in- or they wanted to get their general [education degree] and then transfer to a four-year college or university. What a lot of them are saying is, ‘I really can’t afford this, so I’m going to have to look at other options,’” she says.
“In the meantime, other states are saying, ‘Well, if you’re a bordering state, we won’t charge you out-of-state tuition.’ So, some states and schools are looking in to that. A lot of private colleges are saying, ‘Hey, we have big endowments here. You can come here.’”
McLaughlin, who is also the president of the Illinois School Counseling Association, says states that are, in particular, working to attract Illinois students with a better financial aid packet include Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Missouri.
Some colleges in Illinois have been hit particularly hard by the budget impasse. Chicago State University reportedly plans to lay off 50 percent of its workforce, while Western Illinois University has announced job cuts for over 100 non-instructional staff members.
“We’re seeing universities that are laying off large numbers of faculty. They will go elsewhere and find jobs. And so, the programs in our Illinois state schools may not be as strong. Parents and students alike are saying, ‘Is this program going to exist if I come to your school? Is your school financially going to be able to stay open?’ You’re seeing a lot of effect at that level, as well,” says McLaughlin.
“So, students are going to say, ‘I have to decide if you’re going to be here, and if my program’s going to be here, and how strong is that program?’”
The Illinois legislature approved a nearly 4-billion-dollar spending plan last week that would fund higher education and MAP grants, but Governor Bruce Rauner’s office has indicated he will veto the measure.
You can hear more from McLaughlin on this topic by clicking below: