- Illinois students whose family income is at or below the state median may be eligible for free tuition and fees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) as part of an effort by higher education officials and a bipartisan group of legislators to get more residents to attend state institutions by making them cost-competitive with out-of-state options, according to the Chicago Tribune.
- In-state freshman and transfer students younger than 24 years old whose family income is $61,000 or less and have assets less than $50,000 are eligible for the program, which begins next fall.
- Additionally, a new merit-based grant program allows other Illinois public colleges to obtain a portion of $25 million in additional state funds, if they match it. The extra funds are intended to help institutions compete with out-of-state colleges and universities that are enrolling high-achieving Illinois students with merit-based aid.
Higher education institutions are trying a variety to tactics to boost enrollments as tuition rates continue to rise overall and students are strapped with ballooning debt.
Northern Illinois University, for example, has instituted freezes on tuition and it has joined other institutions in providing in-state tuition to out-of-state students as well as other incentives to increase enrollment. The University of Illinois system has also implemented tuition freezes. Some critics are concerned the changes will reduce financial aid opportunities for learners and will include cuts to programs or faculty member positions that will hurt the institutions in the long run.
While those initiatives are designed to attract new students, many institutions also are concerned about retention and are offering options such as a scholarship to pay tuition for a year after a successful first year, stipends for books or other fees, and even child care, food or transportation assistance. Sometimes the support is aimed specifically at working adult students, who universities see as a growing part of their student bodies. Many community colleges and four-year institutions are specifically targeting that group.
But institutions will continue to struggle financially. The University of Iowa recently announced it is closing seven centers to save $3.6 million due to state budget cuts and decreased enrollment. That difficult mix has forced colleges and universities to look for a variety of ways to save money.