What does it say about a society when its elected representatives decide that access to an inexpensive, quality university education is no longer a priority?
That’s what’s been happening in Illinois since at least 2000.
According to the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, whose Budget Director Bobby Otter is this week’s guest, the inflation-adjusted appropriation for higher education was 41 percent lower in 2015 than it was at the turn of the century.
But even that statistic is only part of the sad story. “Over the cliff” is the way Otter describes what happened to higher ed funding in both 2015 and 2016.
Chicago area universities like Chicago State and Northeastern have been hit especially hard. CSU’s appropriation has fallen 65% since 2015, and Northeastern’s has dropped by 47%. In these two cases, the effect is multiplied because their student populations are predominantly lower-income and minority individuals, whose families don’t have the resources to fund college education.
The bottom line? When the cuts to Monetary Assistance Grants are also figured in, state funding for higher education in Illinois from 2000 to today has been slashed by 78.5%!
These decisions have been made by Democratic and Republican governors and a largely Democratic legislature. They appear to reflect a philosophy that, unlike pensions and public safety, these are costs that can be quietly shifted over time from the public treasury to the family, since parents can spend their savings or sign up for loans for their children’s college.
Needless to say, for some families this may be possible, but for so many in Illinois it simply means many young people will be denied the education that could lift them out of poverty.
It’s a sobering view of what our politicians consider Illinois’s highest priorities.
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