|Every young adult in Illinois deserves a chance at college. For many, a college degree is the path to breaking out of a cycle of poverty. For others, it’s a badge of honor to build upon the hard work of their parents. And it used to be that if someone couldn’t afford the cost of college, he could work his way through.
But years of massive growth in higher-education bureaucracies and outrageous increases in administrative pay and employee pension benefits have had an incredibly harmful effect.
Lower-income students are now priced out of a college degree. Tuitions have skyrocketed to pay for the administrative bloat and exorbitant salaries, and the costs are falling on taxpayers – and on families and students who are trying to get ahead through higher education.
Now, if low-income students want a college degree, they are forced into crippling debt. More than 1.7 million Illinoisans hold student-loan debt, including 70 percent of the state’s class of 2013 – the fourth-highest rate in the country. Total student-loan debt in Illinois is approaching $50 billion.
In addition to debt, many students are now forced to depend on grants. But for too many would-be students, college is no longer an option.
It’s not surprising to see university and college administrators across Illinois searching desperately for a scapegoat as the state’s budget crisis exposes the mess they’ve created. Instead of admitting their problems are self-inflicted, university officials have settled on blaming the state instead.
Due to the budget gridlock, the state has not appropriated nearly $2 billion in funding for higher education. That’s obviously had an impact on university and college budgets. But higher-education institutions don’t steward this money responsibly to help keep college affordable. Instead, those funds are funneled into skyrocketing administrative costs.
Listening to university officials, however, doesn’t provide the real story. So here it is:
Students are losing access to college because colleges and universities have massively increased tuitions. Combined tuition and fees have grown by over 100 percent at many universities. Even at institutions such as Chicago State University, which serves low-income students, annual tuition and fee costs now equal $11,758, up 77 percent since 2006.