In recent years, Illinois has become one of the largest exporters in the country of college-bound students. According to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, in 2016 a staggering 23,304 Illinois public high school graduates left the state to pursue their college degree. This represented a 4.6% increase over the class of 2014.
This precarious situation was exacerbated by the state budget crisis where for nearly two years the Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP Grant) was in limbo and families were rightfully concerned about whether the funds would be available to help finance their education. Approximately 130,000 students receive the MAP Grant each year which depending upon your enrollment status and tuition costs, can be worth up to $4,968 per year. Out of state institutions, sensing the vulnerability families felt, swept in and have been wooing students with tuition incentives. The resulting brain drain of some of our best and brightest students from Illinois has the potential to present long-term challenges for the state. Research shows, once a student leaves a state for college, it is less likely that they will return upon graduation.
That is why the recent action in Springfield to approve HB 5020 is so encouraging. Now, Illinois families can plan with greater confidence in their future enrollment in an Illinois college or university. Up until now, grants have been awarded in one-year increments. With this new law, returning students will be given priority for MAP funds beginning in the 2020-21 year.
Most importantly, this law reflects a renewed commitment to Illinois residents by lawmakers. In the future, rather than being at the top of the list of exporting states, hopefully, more families will pursue their college aspirations at one of the outstanding universities right here in Illinois.