UI president spells out new 'Triple I' financial-aid plan

UI president spells out new 'Triple I' financial-aid plan

URBANA — The University of Illinois is pledging to reserve 85 percent of its student financial aid for Illinois residents if legislators support a proposed five-year state funding agreement with the UI.

President Tim Killeen billed the new "Triple I" measure — for "Invest in Illinoisans" — as a financial aid program to stem a migration of talented Illinois high school seniors to out-of-state colleges.

At Wednesday's board of trustees meeting, Killeen said the UI would commit a minimum of $170 million a year for the next five years to students who are from Illinois if the state approves the proposed "Investment, Performance and Accountability Commitment." The five-year compact would give the UI predictable funding in exchange for meeting certain benchmarks.

But after the meeting, Killeen clarified that the $170 million isn't really new money, but the amount the UI already gives to students from Illinois. It represents about 85 percent of the $200 million in financial aid provided by the university, which comes from a variety of sources, including scholarships, fundraising and state support, said Executive Vice President Barbara Wilson.

The UI would use that $170 million as a base moving forward and reserve 85 percent of any growth in financial aid resources for Illinois students, officials said.

"It's an all-time high. We want to be able to sustain that and grow it, and it really depends on the IPAC," Wilson said, adding that financial aid will be a big component of the UI's upcoming fundraising campaign.

But if the five-year state funding compact isn't approved, or state funding declines, financial aid may go down because of financial pressure on the university, Killeen said.

"We're not going to be able to deliver on all of our promises in our side of the compact," he said, including a promise to keep tuition and fee increases to no more than the rate of inflation.

Under the five-year compact, the UI's base funding would be $647 million, the amount it received in fiscal 2015, the last year of a full state budget. Its funding would rise by the rate of inflation after that.

"We want to lay out what we can do for taxpayers and families of Illinois," Killeen said, but it's contingent upon the state holding up its end of the bargain.

Killeen said the financial aid plan would provide $850 million to in-state students over five years, a level "unprecedented in our 150-year history."

The UI admits more than 70 percent of Illinois residents who apply to its three campuses, Killeen said. More than 80 percent of the UI system's students are from Illinois, including 90 percent at the Chicago campus and 73 percent in Urbana.

But Killeen said the UI loses many students because of cost, with most who choose out-of-state colleges over Illinois citing the lack of financial support as a factor.

Illinois is now second only to New Jersey in terms of the net loss of high school seniors to out-of-state colleges, officials said. That number rose from 29 percent in 2002 to 45 percent in 2015.

"The outmigration is costing Illinois talent, earning power and a host of other benefits," Killeen said.

The financial aid would be a mix of merit- and need-based grants, officials said.

Wilson said financial aid packages are determined by the individual colleges where students are accepted, and they look at a variety of factors.

"These days, I would say need and merit are overlapping to a great extent," Wilson said. "Many, many families need help to support their children to go to school. We don't separate it out."