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College students fleeing Illinois for cheaper tuition. Legislature seeks to change that.

Illinois students save money by going to college out of state

University of Missouri student Carolyn Bossung talks about how she saved money by going to college out of state, in Missouri, instead of in Illinois.
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University of Missouri student Carolyn Bossung talks about how she saved money by going to college out of state, in Missouri, instead of in Illinois.

As Carolyn Bossung, of Swansea, went through her college selection process, the financial cost played a role in which schools she considered, and ultimately where she attended.

The University of Missouri junior received the school’s Heritage Scholarship, which is open to students whose parents attended Mizzou, have ACT or SAT scores in the top 25 percent, and are non-Missouri residents.

With the scholarship, she only has to pay in-state tuition, which for this school year is $11,008, instead of $26,596 for out-of-state students without any scholarship. In-state tuition at the University of Illinois, by comparison, is more than $15,800 this year.

“It ended up working out. I was still close to home, about two hours out, I was getting in-state (tuition), and I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I felt Mizzou gave me a lot of options,” said Bossung, who is double majoring in biology and education.

Bossung said she didn’t even consider public universities Illinois, expecting them to be more expensive. In some cases she is right. While tuition at the two Southern Illinois University campuses is lower for residents, it is higher at University of Illinois and Eastern Illinois University, for example.

While tuition is just one of the costs, it could be a contributing factor to a migration of Illinois students since 2000.

Out of-state tuition at the University of Missouri is $26,596. Altogether, a student paying resident tuition, housing and dining, books, fees and other expenses at Mizzou would pay $27,964 a year, compared with $43,552 for students paying out-of-state tuition and other expenses, according to the university.

In a study, the Illinois Board of Higher Education found that hundreds of millions of dollars more would come to state universities if the state didn’t have a net loss of students. It also found that the University of Missouri, University of Iowa, Indiana State University and Iowa State University attracted the most Illinois residents in 2014.

“Eliminating the net loss would result in more than $215 million in additional tuition and fee revenue to Illinois universities,” the board wrote in a letter to universities presidents and chancellors.

If we don’t keep people working in Illinois, we’re not going to be getting revenue in terms of tax revenue anyway. And if we could get somebody to work and live in Illinois five years after college graduation, we’ve got a pretty good chance we’re going to keep them here during their working life. We’re talking years of them producing.

State Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville

Now Illinois legislators are trying to figure out ways to keep students from leaving the state, and potentially stay in state after graduating.

The net loss of students has been ongoing for more than a decade in Illinois, and may have been worsened by the state budget impasse. Without a budget in place, Illinois was not paying for Monetary Award Program grants, or MAP grants, which help cover some costs for students attending state universities.

In 2014, the state had a net loss of 16,623 students, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, up from 10,222 students in 2000.

There are different proposals that have been made in the Illinois General Assembly to try to encourage students to stay in state:

▪  One proposal, House Bill 230, calls for guaranteeing admission into the state university system if students graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class and meet the ACT benchmark for college readiness.

“We have highly qualified students, but because of the high school they attend, they get overlooked, even though they’re top students in that high school,” said State Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville. “It goes along hand in hand with the population of our universities not being representative of our population as a whole in terms of diversity.”

▪  Another proposal, House Bill 145, is a student loan forgiveness program for students who attend state universities. The proposal calls for students to live and work in Illinois for four years after graduating from school and maintain a high GPA while in college. With the average student loan debt being $30,000, up to $6,000 a year in student loan debt would be forgiven for up to five years.

▪  Under still another proposal, House Bill 3746, the state would offer an income tax deduction on interest on student loan payments, similar to the deduction of home mortgage interest payments.

“If we don’t keep people working in Illinois, we’re not going to be getting revenue in terms of tax revenue anyway,” Stuart said. “And if we could get somebody to work and live in Illinois five years after college graduation, we’ve got a pretty good chance we’re going to keep them here during their working life. We’re talking years of them producing.”

There are 166,087 students attending Illinois public universities this year, down from 172,664 students just two years ago, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Acknowledging that student migration out of Illinois was a problem, the Southern Illinois University board of trustees last year approved one tuition for all undergraduate students, regardless of where they’re from. This year that tuition is $8,772 a year — one of the most-affordable in the region.

“What has made SIUE viable is our strong programs, faculty, our internships and co-ops that lead to jobs,” said Todd Burrell, director of undergraduate admissions. “Being affordable at the same time makes us an attractive option for a lot of students.”

Burrell said undergraduate applications this year were running about 100 ahead of last year from Missouri alone. And admissions are up for students coming from Chicago and across Illinois.

“Our brand is out there,” he said.

In addition to MAP grants, the university also offers the so-called SIUE grant for students with greater needs to provide even more scholarship dollars to help keep the university competitive, Burrell said.

The student loan forgiveness idea would be attractive to Carolyn Bossung, the Swansea student at Mizzou.

“If I didn’t have to worry about so many loans, that would have opened up my search a lot,” she said.

When Missouri State University freshman and Belleville native Austin Quandt was going through his college decision process, he also considered the University of Illinois, where his brother, Hayden, attended.

It was a huge part in making my decision, just because I didn’t want to get out of college with a decent degree, but still be in a lot of debt.

Austin Quandt, Belleville native and freshman at Missouri State University

Finances played a big role in his decision to attend Missouri State in Springfield.

“It was a huge part in making my decision, just because I didn’t want to get out of college with a decent degree, but still be in a lot of debt,” Quandt said.

Quandt said his family is still working to pay off the debt from Hayden’s education.

“That’s pretty much when financially I tried to make the smarter, better decision both for myself and for my family,” Austin Quandt said.

Austin Quandt is paying in-state tuition at Missouri State of $7,306 a year. An out-of-state student is usually charged more than $14,700 a year just for tuition. Additional scholarships reduced the cost even more, said Lisa Quandt, Austin and Hayden’s mother.

“They made it so appealing, they threw money at us,” Lisa Quandt said. “(Austin) had the opportunity for quite a few scholarships just for leadership, let alone the money they were going to give you academically. Whereas when we looked at U of I … they don’t give anything. There’s just nothing out there.”

Austin Quandt said a student loan forgiveness would be attractive to him and could have made his decision more difficult.

“My decision was based more on the financial aspect of it, and I didn’t want to be in that much debt,” he said. “So I think if the student loan (bill) were to be enacted … I don’t know if it would have changed my decision, but it definitely would have affected it more.”

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter

Net student migration loss for Illinois

  • 2000: 10,222 students
  • 2002: 11,352 students
  • 2004: 11,073 students
  • 2006: 4,913 students
  • 2008: 3,045 students
  • 2010: 10,972 students
  • 2012: 16,563 students
  • 2014: 16,623 students

Source: Illinois Board of Higher Education

Annual in-state tuition costs

Source: State universities

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