News Local/State

New Legislation Aims To Keep Illinois Students In State For College

Gov. Bruce Rauner signs legislation surrounded by public university presidents at Papa Del's Pizza in Champaign.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signs legislation surrounded by public university presidents at Papa Del's Pizza in Champaign. Anna Casey/Illinois Public Media

Governor Bruce Rauner signed two higher education bills on Tuesday aimed at curbing the out-migration of Illinois high school graduates attending college across state lines.

The first bill, Senate Bill 2927, will provide merit-based scholarships to Illinois students at the state’s four-year universities. The second bill, House Bill 4781, creates a task force to better understand the career interests of high school students and prepare in-state institutions to fit students needs.

Both pieces of legislation resulted from the findings of the bipartisan Higher Education Working Group.

“They’ve been tirelessly trying to find ways to improve and support higher education in the state of Illinois," Rauner said during a bill signing at Papa Del’s Pizza in Champaign."These two bills are a direct result of that bipartisan, great work by the legislators.” 

State Senator Chapin Rose said the restaurant was chosen as the location for the signing because the business’ founder, Bob Monti, is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“What if 70 employees was at Purdue right now?” Rose said, referring to the restaurant. “What if it was at Michigan State? This isn’t hypothetical folks. This is what’s happening every day when we let one of these kids leave Illinois.”

About 45 percent of Illinois high school graduates chose to leave the state to attend college in 2016, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, making it one of the top states for student out-migration in the country.

Many Illinois students who leave for college go to surrounding states such as Missouri, Iowa and Indiana. Lawmakers say generous scholarship offers to talented students from those out-of-state schools are part of the incentive to leave.

Lawmakers and university presidents grappling with declining in-state enrollment hope the new legislation will slow the decades-long trend of Illinois students leaving to pursue degrees elsewhere.

Rauner said the bills “will help with the financial support and keeping our students in state.” 

According to the first bill, it will be up to individual institutions to determine the grant award on an individual basis. Eligible students must meet certain academic criteria, and their family’s household income cannot exceed six-times the poverty level. The scholarships will begin in the 2019-2020 academic year.