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dir="ltr" style="font-size: 12px;">Nearly every other high school graduate in Illinois who went to a four-year university chose to do so outside the state in 2016.
A new report from the Illinois Board of Higher Education says that the number of Illinois residents enrolled in a local college is continually dropping and the number of students going to school in other states has been growing for more than a decade. In 2016, almost half of the local high school graduates that planned to attend a four-year school did so out of state. The report shows that they’re primarily just crossing the borders to neighboring state schools.
Board chairman Al Bowman said the decade-long trend is troubling. He thinks recent dips in enrollment are due to other universities out-recruiting Illinois’ schools on their home turf.
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“The schools will collectively have to do a better job of marketing their products,” Bowman said.
Education analyst Preston Cooper with the American Enterprise Institute said the cost of administration often drives up in-state tuition, lessening the value of the local discount.
“It’s definitely an area where schools might be able to cut back if they’re looking to rein in expenditures rather than raise tuition,” he said.
Bowman said a recent IBHE study showed students often pay more in out-of-state tuition and fees than if they had attended a local university.
The University of Illinois is the third most expensive school in the Big 10 conference behind private Northwestern and Penn State. The cheapest is the University of Iowa.
The top out-of-state school for Illinoisans in 2016: the University of Iowa.
Some schools are getting the hint. The University of Illinois confirmed Thursday morning that it would once again keep its tuition rates at the same level as the previous year’s levels. Illinois State University froze its tuition rates last year. Both have seen enrollment increases in recent years, Bowman says.
Illinois’ budget impasse definitely didn’t help attendance at Illinois’ public universities, Bowman said, but the trends extend far beyond 2015, when the impasse began.
The college graduate brain drain is troubling for politicians and school officials alike. College students are statistically more likely to set roots where they went to school, rather than move back home once they graduate. On a mass scale, this exasperates Illinois’ ongoing exodus of population that is now in its fifth consecutive year of lower headcounts.
Also, fewer students inevitably means less revenue for the universities that have become increasingly reliant on tuition for operating expenses. The combination of fewer new freshmen and increasing operation costs creates a vicious cycle of financial trouble for the institutions.