from the Illinois Board of Higher Education

June 24, 1998

Contact: Ross Hodel, 217/782-2551


Joint Meeting to Explore Affordability of College

Helping students prepare for and pay for college is the focus of a first-ever joint meeting of the Illinois Board of Higher Education and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission July 7 at the Hoffman Estates Center of Northern Illinois University.

The two groups will examine reports showing that a college education has become less affordable over the past five years for families with incomes ranging from $22,000 to $57,000 a year.

Student financial aid for grants increased 63 percent during the 1990s, and state general fund support for higher education has risen 20 percent. Even so, college costs have outpaced inflation and increases in median family income during the decade. Also during that period, students have become increasingly reliant on loans to finance their education, despite the fact Illinois has the second largest need-based grant program in the country. Since 1985, tuition at public universities has risen more than twice as much as the average cost of instruction for undergraduates, although tuition increases have moderated in recent years.

"These trends on rising costs highlight our concerns for keeping college within the financial grasp of all Illinois families," Keith Sanders, Executive Director of the Board of Higher Education, said. "We must protect opportunities for a college education by assuring it is affordable for all."

Larry Matejka, Executive Director of ISAC, said, "Current national and state data suggest that the financial aid foundation we've built needs to be strengthened. I'm confident we can achieve this and preserve access to college for Illinois families."

Members of the Board and Commission will use the joint meeting to explore policies aimed at ensuring that college remains affordable in Illinois, including targeting additional resources through the Monetary Award Program to students from poor families; reaching out to underrepresented groups and nontraditional students; assisting students who enroll on a less than half-time basis; indexing tuition increases to economic indicators; and promoting mechanisms for moderating cost increases, such as pre-paid tuition programs and the Grad Pacts, and tuition guarantees as Western Illinois University has adopted.