University battles out-migration with fourth straight tuition freeze


Cindy Om

Source: Collegedata

By Olivia Welshans, staff writer

For the fourth year in a row, the University of Illinois has frozen its tuition rate in order to staunch the flow of Illinois’ college-bound freshmen from leaving for out-of-state institutions.

The tuition freeze was enacted in 2015 after the University went through several tuition increases in years prior due to a decline in state funding. This year marks their longest freeze since 1974.

Recent years have seen very little increase in University in-state tuition and fees. Although Illinois is behind only Pennsylvania State University for the highest tuition compared with other peers and Big Ten universities, other colleges are catching up.

University tuition and fees have risen only 1.7 percent, or $266, since 2014. This is severely less compared with the University of Iowa’s 11 percent, the largest increase of all Big Ten colleges.

The University hopes continuing to freeze tuition will move them “back towards the pack,” as other schools increase their tuitions, said Kevin Pitts, vice provost for undergraduate education, in an email.

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Over the last several years, Illinois institutions have seen a decrease in enrollment as nearly half the college-bound residents chose to go out of state.

According to new data from the Illinois Board number of college-bound freshmen choosing out-of-state schools reached a record high in 2016. In 2014, the last time data like this was taken, Illinois had a net loss of 16,623 students. In 2016, the loss increased to 19,278 students, or by 16 percent.

A total of 34,445 Illinois freshmen enrolled in schools in other states, compared with the 78,265 freshmen who chose Illinois schools.

Pitts said the University hopes continuing to freeze tuition will attract more students as competitor schools catch up in cost.

“Turning the tide is crucial to Illinois’ future based on studies that show most college graduates stay in the state where they earned their degrees. And since the tuition freeze began, the U of I System has been helping lead the way,” said University President Tim Killeen in a news release.

Pitts said the University realizes its cost of attendance and availability of scholarships are reasons students would decline an offer to attend, and it is working to rectify this.

The University intends to increase its financial aid opportunities through both need-based and merit-based scholarships. Recent actions, such as the creation of the Engineering Visionary Scholarship Program and the $150 million donation from the Gies family for Gies College of Business, are helping grow the University’s available scholarship funding and awards.

The whole campus has made scholarship money a priority in its “With Illinois” campaign, a fundraising campaign the University launched last fall, Pitts said.

State law guarantees the tuition students pay as freshmen is the tuition they pay over the next three years, so although tuition has only been frozen for four years, it has been a guarantee for certain students for at least eight years, he said.

Aldo Vivero, freshman in LAS, said although the University is expensive, he believes the education he’s paying for is of high quality.

“I think the college is expensive because of the reputation it has. They put money into helping their students succeeding later in life,” Vivero said.

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