URBANA — The University of Illinois is creating a new financial-aid program targeted at Illinois residents to help make college more affordable and keep talented high school seniors in the state.
The program will be part of the UI's five-year "Investment, Performance and Accountability Commitment" with the state, a proposal designed to provide stable funding in exchange for meeting certain accountability and performance benchmarks, including financial aid.
UI President Tim Killeen said more details would be announced at today's board of trustees meeting at the Illini Union.
The measure is targeted at middle-class families who don't get much financial aid but struggle to meet college costs, Killeen said.
In a presentation Tuesday, Executive Vice President Barbara Wilson outlined the financial aid available to several typical UI students, including one whose single mother earns about $79,000 a year and has another child in college but is expected under federal guidelines to contribute $14,000 a year to her daughter's UI education (which costs about $30,700 a year).
"This is where the rubber hits the road. Our commitment can't just be to hold costs down," Killeen said, referring to the UI's three-year tuition freeze.
The UI five-year state funding proposal was reintroduced in the new legislative session, and a committee hearing on the measure was scheduled for this afternoon. Killeen planned to head to Springfield to testify at that hearing after today's board meeting.
An amendment will be added dealing specifically with financial aid for Illinois residents, he said.
"We're losing 40 percent of our high schoolers to other states. We've got to keep them here," Killeen said. "When qualified students who've been educated here in Illinois leave the state and don't come back and don't pay taxes in Illinois, it's a loss to the tax base."
About 32,000 students in the UI system receive financial aid, about 58 percent of all undergraduates, Wilson said.
The number of students in need has grown over the past decade because family incomes haven't kept pace with college costs, Wilson said.
The number of students eligible for need-based federal Pell grants has grown from 16 percent of Urbana's student body 10 years ago to almost 26 percent today, she said. At the UI Chicago, it's risen from 35 percent to 57 percent in that same span.
Just over half of all Urbana undergraduates — 51 percent — pay the full price of tuition and fees, but the rest qualify for some type of financial aid, she said. About 16 percent pay nothing toward their tuition and fees; about 10 percent pay less than $3,000 a year; and 23 percent pay something between $3,000 and the full cost ($15,036 for base tuition and fees).
Federal and state need-based grants have plateaued over the past decade, Wilson said.
The UI now provides about $217 million in tuition waivers, grants, scholarships and fellowships on its three campuses, compared to about $166 million from federal, state and other financial aid sources.
The UI president noted that the average debt for UI students who borrow for college is trending down slightly, at $24,715, less than the state average of $29,305 for Illinois public and private colleges. The national average is $30,100.