State Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) has introduced legislation that will make it easier for Illinois students to attend in-state universities. Senate Bill 1565 also seeks to limit the state’s involvement in higher education operations, reduce unnecessary bureaucracy, and improve efficiency.
Senate Bill 1565 seeks to both reduce the cost a university degree to students and provide an incentive for graduates to continue living in Illinois. In the last five years, the number of students attending public universities has dropped 12 percent. This bill will increase competition between Illinois universities and out-of-state universities, and it will give Illinois’ higher education institutions a better chance of keeping Illinois students in Illinois. Additionally, universities will also be allowed to operate more efficiently without unessential interference from the state government.
“With public university attendance declining in Illinois, costs increasing and the level of state support to public universities declining, I believe it is time to start a serious conversation about the future of higher education in Illinois. Accordingly, I will not be calling SB 1565 in Senate committee on Tuesday,” Brady said.
“Attending a public university in Illinois is expensive, and Illinois high school students are leaving the state in favor of out-of-state colleges at a high rate,” said Brady. “For Illinois to thrive in the long-term, it cannot keep losing great students to more attractive out-of-state universities.”
Senator Brady said Illinois students who make a commitment to their home state and who work hard for their degree should be rewarded. The plan would be phased in over a six-year period. The state dollars now appropriated to public universities would be transferred to eligible Illinois students in the form of grants. Illinois residents who decide to attend in-state universities will be eligible to receive a monetary grant that will fluctuate, based on need, to assist them in graduating from college. Students who graduate in four years will immediately have half of their grant forgiven. Also, for each year a graduate lives and works in the state of Illinois, an additional one-eighth of the original grant is forgiven. This legislation not only assists students in attending college in Illinois but also rewards them for staying in the state after graduation.
Students who do not graduate in four years or drop out would begin paying back the grant over a 10-year period. If they do graduate, one half of their grant will be forgiven, and their remaining payment will be readjusted.
The bill also seeks to take the state’s assets (university buildings, for example) and lease them to the universities themselves. In effect, the state would have a very narrow role in the day-to-day operations of its universities. State universities would operate in the same manner as private universities.
University board members would cease being appointed by the Governor, as is currently the case. Instead, future board members would be decided by individual universities through their boards of trustees. If the legislation is signed into law, current board members would be allowed to serve the remainder of their current terms.
“University boards should be able to decide for themselves who is going to govern and operate their universities, not state government,” said Brady.