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May 28, 2003


SPRINGFIELD - Stating that "college affordability in Illinois faces a critical crossroad," a special Committee on Affordability is recommending a renewed commitment to the state's need-based financial aid program, expanding eligibility and assuring a funding stream to protect needy students from the rising cost of college.

The committee's report will be presented to the Illinois Board of Higher Education at its meeting June 3 at John Wood Community College in Quincy.

Board members will review a report from the Committee on Affordability, a joint panel comprised of members from both the Board of Higher Education and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) and co-chaired by Dr. Robert English and J. Robert Barr. After a period for public comment, the Board will act on final recommendations at its August meeting. ISAC will also be considering the committee's recommendations during this period.

The report, which is the product of hearings, research, and widespread consultation with interested parties, builds on the work of the Board's 1994 Committee to Study Affordability and contains a broad scope of recommendations for protecting Illinois' reputation as an affordable place to go to college. Among its recommendations:

  • Expanding eligibility for need-based Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants to 135 credit hours (presently, students are eligible for four years of MAP grants, the equivalent of 120 credit hours). The extension is designed to accommodate students whose majors-teaching, engineering, architecture, among others-require more than four years of study.
  • Making MAP funding the highest priority in the state's effort to improve affordability and ensuring that annual increases in MAP support keep pace with increases in tuition and fees across all higher education sectors.
  • Ensuring that MAP awards are sufficient to enable students to choose among community colleges, public universities, and private institutions.
  • Increasing the Illinois Incentive for Access (IIA) program to provide additional aid for low-income students.
  • Encouraging public universities to adopt tuition and fee programs that promote stability, predictability, and affordability to help families better plan for college costs.
  • Making the "four-year completion guarantee" now offered by some institutions universal among all public universities, with a two-year version available at community colleges. The guarantee assures students who stay on track with their studies the availability of courses to finish their curriculum in four years.
  • Strengthening Illinois high school graduation requirements, based on the notion that students who are prepared for the academic rigors of college will progress in a timely-and economical-way toward their degrees.
  • Offering financial incentives to low-income students to take assessment exams (Advanced Placement, for instance) and to participate in dual-enrollment programs that give them a head start on college credit.
  • Coordinating outreach efforts at the state level to educate families and students about financial aid opportunities and assist with taking advantage of them.
  • Developing a biennial "state of college affordability in Illinois" report to monitor financial needs that require attention and to provide an early alert to parents about the cost of attending college.

Board members will also examine the latest survey of underrepresented groups in higher education showing steady gains for minority students in enrollments and degrees awarded.

The fifteenth annual Underrepresented Groups Report shows enrollment of African-American students rose nearly 5 percent and Latino enrollments increased almost 7 percent in fall 2002 compared with a year earlier. Over the decade from 1992 to 2002, black undergraduate enrollment increased more than 16 percent while the number of grad students jumped nearly 50 percent. Trends for Latino students were even more impressive: up 64 percent for undergrads, and 88 percent for grad students.

Minority students also demonstrated improvement in degrees awarded. For African-American students, the gain from 2001 to 2002 was a meager .6 percent, largely because of an 11.5 percent drop in the number of black students earning certificates. All other areas showed improvement, including an increase of 4 percent in associate degrees, 7 percent in bachelor's degrees, nearly 4 percent in master's, and 21 percent in doctorates. Over the decade ending in 2002, degrees granted to black students at all levels rose more than 45 percent. Degrees awarded to Latino students increased nearly 12 percent over the past year, and 91 percent over the decade.

This year's report also documents steps colleges and universities have taken to recruit underrepresented students and faculty, as well as improve the college readiness of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Universities detailed a variety of recruiting steps-visits to high schools and community colleges, direct mail, financial aid, publications-to attract minority students to campus. Some activities produced unexpected dividends. The University of Illinois at Chicago reported, for example, that the recruitment of a Latino student often results in the student's siblings, parents, and other relatives also applying to UIC. Similarly, institutions report various activities aimed at increasing faculty and staff diversity. Illinois State University, for instance, has a program to provide departments with up to $11,000 per person per year for three years to fund summer salary, professional travel, graduate assistants, equipment, and/or mentoring for underrepresented faculty. Several institutions also have stepped up efforts to recruit students with disabilities. Northern Illinois University has an "optional supplemental admission process" for freshmen applicants with disabilities who do not meet the NIU admission criteria, as well as an outreach program for faculty and staff at Kishwaukee college on teaching and interacting with students with disabilities.

The Board also will discuss a follow-up survey showing ways that colleges and universities have implemented policy recommendations adopted last year relating to nontenure-track faculty. An IBHE paper, All Faculty Matter!, urged measures to help nontenure-track faculty be more effective teachers, to integrate such faculty more thoroughly in the campus community, and to ensure the appropriate use and compensation of faculty who are not on the tenure-track.

Universities report increased emphasis on evaluation of nontenure-track faculty and improved orientation and mentoring activities. Several universities are exploring or experimenting with multi-year contracts for nontenured faculty and part-time adjunct faculty members, a key recommendation in the Board's report of last year. Universities also have reconsidered salary and benefits for nontenured faculty-including base salary levels and sick leave.

Community colleges, too, reported a variety of measures aimed at improving teaching effectiveness, including workshops, orientation, and faculty mentors. Several colleges also reported increased efforts to involve part-time and nontenure-track faculty in campus governance.


Don Sevener



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