Editorials

College students would rather be offered an Illinois job than a state tax credit

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.

Old song: “How you gonna keep them down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paree?”

New song: “How you gonna keep them taxed in Illinois, after they’ve attended Mizzou?”

State lawmakers see the trend of 6,400 more Illinois students per year finding a college education out of state. But that exodus was between 2000 and 2014. How much worse did it get when we went two years without a state budget and let higher education funding drop, MAP grants languish and professors flee for greener campuses?

Their solutions are in three state bills: Guaranteed admission for top students; student loan forgiveness up to $30,000 for those who live and work in Illinois after graduation; and a state income tax deduction for student loan payments.

Seems like top students can go anywhere, so guaranteeing them a spot in Illinois doesn’t seem very attractive. Most high school students aren’t making decisions based on a state income tax credit that they have no way to measure because they have no clue as to their future income or debt.

That leaves us with the Bernie Sanders-ish idea about student loan forgiveness. Who wouldn’t consider that, just like free tuition after military service?

But how much would it cost and who pays for it?

Which brings us back to this familiar dog chasing its tail. Spend money you do not have in amounts you don’t bother to measure and create problems that you try to fix with more spending in amounts you don’t bother to measure.

Remember the plea of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Chancellor Carlo Montemagno? Much more basic changes, that might save money, can fix Illinois higher education.

Stop the growth of administration, which rose 26 percent in a decade. Merge campuses. Cut red tape so bureaucracy doesn’t stop innovation or changes to courses and majors that would make college more relevant to getting a job in today’s economy rather than 1990’s economy.

Students would be much more willing to attend an Illinois university knowing they could expect a job offer instead of a demand for loan repayment.

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