Closing equity gaps at heart of spending plan for Illinois universities and colleges

Colorful trees surround Altgeld Hall and the East Lagoon Monday, Oct. 17, 2022, on the campus of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Board of Higher Education recommended a $50 million increase for its monetary award program, known as MAP, that provides grants to students from low-income households so they can attend college.

This and other recommendations are contained in the $2.5 billion budget plan for 2024 that goes to Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the General Assembly for approval.

IBHE Chairman John Atkinson said the budget – a 7.7% increase over last year’s general fund – reflects the board’s commitment to closing equity gaps.

“We are already seeing increases in freshmen enrollment in our public university system from this past fall that reflect the increased investments we have already made,” Atkinson said in a news release last week. “The recommended budget recognizes that investing in an equitable higher education system is key in fostering an inclusive and thriving Illinois economy.”

The board’s strategic plan from 2021 calls for MAP funding to reach $1 billion in 10 years. This proposed increase brings MAP grant funding to $651.6 million.

The board recommends $86.3 million, an increase of 7.5%, for the general operation fund of public universities and calls for the distribution to favor institutions that serve the greatest number of low-income students.

“Equity and achieving the goals in the higher education strategic plan are at the forefront of each of these budget recommendations,” IBHE Executive Director Ginger Ostro said.

Under the plan, community colleges would also see a 7.5% increase, about $24.9 million. Some $3.2 million of that is allocated to a program for dual credit grants. Another $5.2 million goes to establish noncredit workforce training grants, designed for students that require short term workforce solutions but can’t avail themselves of degree or credential enrollment.

Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton talks to Kelly Olson, Northern Illinois University assistant vice president for student development, Monday, May 2, 2022, during a tour of the Huskie Food Pantry at NIU. Stratton also visited with students and staff in the education department to mark Teachers Awareness Week.

Aim High is a program designed to recruit Illinois students to state universities. The budget will maintain its funding level of $35 million as the program moves out of its pilot phase.

A scholarship program designed to recruit students of color to be teachers gets a $2.8 million boost. If enacted, the program will serve 930 students.

The Illinois Teachers Loan Repayment Program gets an increase of $535,000. Students who agree to teach in the state’s low-income areas can qualify for some loan forgiveness. The hope is to increase the number of teachers in the program from 90 to 195.

Shaw Local News Network

Shaw Local News Network

Shaw Local News Network provides local news throughout northern Illinois