Record number of Illinois college freshmen heading out of state

Record number of Illinois college freshmen heading out of state

A record number of college-bound freshmen from Illinois chose out-of-state schools in fall 2016, according to new state data.

A total of 35,445 students enrolled in colleges and universities in other states, compared with 78,265 who chose Illinois schools, a recent low.

Illinois was again second only to New Jersey (28,932) in the net loss of students — 19,275, according to data released Friday by the Illinois Board of Higher Education. That's up from a net loss of 16,623 in 2014.

Among recent Illinois public high school graduates attending four-year institutions, 46 percent enrolled in out-of-state schools in 2016, compared to 29 percent in 2002. When private high schools are included, the percentage is even higher - 48 percent, according to the IBHE.

"It's a troubling picture," said IBHE Executive Director Al Bowman. "Illinois has had a long history of out-migration. The difference today is it's accelerated the last few years, and that's very, very concerning."

The enrollment numbers are from fall 2016, when the state was mired in a budget impasse. Those college freshmen would have been choosing their schools the previous spring — when Illinois universities had operated for an entire academic year without state funding. Money for need-based grants to college students was also uncertain.

"I think that's part of it," Bowman said. "But I think there's more going on."

Demographic factors are also at play, he said. The pool of 18-year-olds in the Midwest has been shrinking in recent years, so competition for high school graduates has intensified.

"The states around Illinois are extremely competitive, because they need Illinois residents to meet their enrollment targets," given their lower populations, Bowman said.

The top destinations for Illinois freshmen? Iowa (4,801), Indiana (4,470) and Wisconsin (4,089). The top four schools came from three of those states: the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, Indiana University and the University of Missouri. In past years, Purdue and Marquette universities were among the top four.

The makeup of Illinois high schools has also shifted, with more students from underrepresented groups and lower-income families who may find it difficult to afford college, Bowman said.

"Those factors together, I think, create what I like to call additional headwinds," he said.

In 2010, there were 125,521 freshmen from Illinois enrolled in college, both in-state and out-of-state, compared to 113,710 in 2016.

This past fall, all but two state institutions — the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the UI Chicago — saw enrollment declines.

A report from the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education shows the number of high school graduates in the Midwest has slipped to 726,100, from a peak of 776,800 in 2010. It projects that number will rebound slightly and stabilize in a year or two before another sharp drop in 2025.

In the meantime, Illinois universities are taking steps to stem the tide, Bowman said.

Cost is a major factor in a student's college decision, and the UI recently announced plans for a fourth consecutive tuition freeze — though its costs remain among the highest in the Big Ten after earlier years of sizable increases.

Most other state universities will keep tuition flat next year or impose "very, very small" increases, Bowman said.

They're also expanding financial aid. At the UI, tuition waivers, grants, scholarships and fellowships now total nearly $220 million a year, and half of undergraduates pay less than full sticker price.

"Every public university in the state is spending a large amount of institutional resources in order to bring down the actual cost of tuition and fees," Bowman said.

Bowman said the state could do a better job of advertising its Monetary Award Program, one of the largest need-based scholarship programs in the country. It covers about 41 percent of the students who are eligible, and the hope is to invest more to expand that pool.

Schools in bordering states have been aggressive about offering scholarships to Illinois students that bring their costs down to in-state tuition levels. Because of that, there's an assumption that Illinois schools are more expensive than their out-of-state competitors, Bowman said.

But a recent IBHE analysis of what students actually pay in tuition and fees showed that "for most Illinois residents, it is far more economical to attend an in-state institution," he said.

The study examined average costs in 2016-17 at Indiana, Purdue, Missouri, Iowa and Iowa State, and compared them to Illinois State, UIUC and the UI Chicago. It factored in scholarships, grants and other discounts (but not loans). The average paid at in-state schools was $8,797 per year, compared to $21,746 at out-of-state institutions, the report found.

"Your next-door neighbor may have a full ride to Iowa, but that doesn't reflect the typical picture for the student from Illinois," Bowman said.

So long

The top out-of-state schools that Illinois students enrolled at as freshmen in 2016, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education:

School Number
University of Iowa 1,690
Iowa State 1,017
Indiana University 901
University of Missouri 894


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whatithink wrote on January 13, 2018 at 7:01 am

Illinois colleges are way overpriced and the quality of education is terrible.  You can go out of state to a quality school, pay out-of-state fees, and still be cheaper than Illinois schools.  Even the community colleges are getting way ovepriced. 

Lostinspace wrote on January 13, 2018 at 10:01 am

The administration clearly does not care about undergraduate education, and particularly Generel Educatiion.  There is no oversight of teaching quality and no evaluation of student achievement.  Students go home, talk to friends and younger siblings.  Word gets around.

Reykjavik wrote on January 13, 2018 at 10:01 pm

Re "There is no oversight of teaching quality and no evaluation of student achievement."  


Say what?  Those statements are hearsay, not to mention nonsense.

Lostinspace wrote on January 14, 2018 at 9:01 am

Really?  Which administration office actively and meaningfully engages in those activities?  How do they evaluate effective teaching?  How do they determine the level of student learning?  Or, if you wish, how do they make certain departments and programs are carrying out those responsibilities?

blindersoff wrote on January 13, 2018 at 11:01 am

What some do not understand is the average income resident with good academics cannot get the same level of scholarships in state that the other surrounding states are willing to give out. Both of my children have attended College in Indiana for a lot less than they could in Illinois.(that's a FACT)  Seems like Illinois would rather look at income than academic standing. Tax paying residents should always take 1st priority. Very sad leadership in Illinois.

Reykjavik wrote on January 13, 2018 at 10:01 pm

Nothing in Iowa or Indiana compares with UIUC, unless one is counting sports.  Different class altogether.

Fred57 wrote on January 14, 2018 at 9:01 am

Chancellor Jones, UIUC should stop referring to student loans as students receiving financial aid, it is debt. Also, the $5,000 added tuition surcharge to Biz and STEM students is discraceful, these are the students whose work drive the success of our economy and solve the world health and tech problems.  These are also the fields of study and students that make this a prestigious university, otherwise, just another SIU-Carbondale... stop the financial assault on our children and families.

moderndaycowboy wrote on January 14, 2018 at 9:01 am

Someone has to pay for the six figure administrative salaries...

BruckJr wrote on January 15, 2018 at 3:01 pm

Are you suggesting that each academic program at UIUC is superior to all similar programs in Iowa and Indiana?

Reykjavik wrote on January 14, 2018 at 11:01 am

Teaching effectiveness is a core mission at UIUC.  Departments as a matter of course examine student feedback, written and ICES scores. These considerations are factored into promotion and salary decisions. Senior faculty sit in on junior faculty and TA classes.  Student feedback is very seriously considered.  Massive resources are thrown at classroom renovations, technologies, and library materials.

Is the teaching uniformly perfect?  Of course not, but it is extremely good and faculty and other teaching professionals feel the weight of responsibility to teach well.  

Do many faculty devote time to research at the expense of teaching?  Of course, we are a research institution and the research is a means to train students as well as to make discoveries.    

It is hearsay - or maybe envy or spite - to imply that UIUC is not extremely serious about teaching.   

Lostinspace wrote on January 14, 2018 at 12:01 pm

You work in a dream department, where tenured faculty teach introductory courses, where teaching counts in personnel decisions (!), where well-prepared TAs teach and don't give As for fear of bad ratings on ICES and Rate My Professor, where standards are maintained and majors are evaluated, to make sure they are meeting the standards, where trivial publication does not trump other activities, where you might have come contact with the Dean's office (other than threats).  You might even have enough classrooms and equipment that works.

Reykjavik wrote on January 14, 2018 at 4:01 pm

Re: "You might even have enough classrooms and equipment that works."  

Yes, excellent classrooms.   Instrumentation/equipment is world famous (UIUC is long know for that aspect).  We write a lot of grant proposals and rely on alumni to help defray costs.  

Introductory courses are taught mainly by dedicated teaching staff (PhDs), grad students, and tenured faculty.  

Students have a choice on which venue they prefer. Labs are supervised by grad students and even some seniors.  

It's not a perfect world - some weak teachers, a handful of TA's are clunkers, equipment breaks or is needed, Univ library is always asking for money, state is provides insufficient faculty lines, renovations are overpriced.  But all in all, things are clicking along.  Same with neighboring departments.  

The greatest challenge we face is that C-U is viewed as flyover territory, distant from cities.  Natural beauty is limited here as well.

Lostinspace wrote on January 14, 2018 at 4:01 pm

Your comments have been uncommonly thoughtful in the past, and I am happy that are fortunate.  We truly live in different worlds.

Reykjavik wrote on January 14, 2018 at 11:01 am

Re the remark about many 6-figure salaries at the university.  You better hope so!

News flash 1: multibillion dollar operations like U of I and UIUC require many administrative people with six-figure salaries.  News flash 2: be grateful, very grateful, because these staff live here and spend much of their six-figure salaries here. "According to the US Census Bureau persons with doctorates in the United States had an average income of roughly $81,400. The average for an advanced degree was $72,824, with men averaging $90,761 and women averaging$50,756 annually."

moderndaycowboy wrote on January 14, 2018 at 2:01 pm

I no longer live in Champaign, so I don't really care what they sepend there, I left UIUC to work at a school that actually values undergraduate education. 

There are too many administrators there that make six figures, and too many administrators in general. This is done at the expense of full-time faculty. Look at your jobs page right now. 86 administrative jobs open right now. That's assinine.

Fred57 wrote on January 14, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Nice statistics, very general though, I am confident that the Biz/STEM fields earn their salary and with significant return on investment to the university.  The Liberal Arts dept. is a different story, where are these dept. ranked nationally, right with the football/ basketball team I’m sure.  Slash their salaries to be reflective of the private sector until they become serious and, as for the bloated administrative personnel, waiting for the rise of the machines to replace them.