Nearly one out of two public school graduates bound for a four-year university chose to leave Illinois rather than studying at an in-state institution, according to a new report.
The Illinois Board of Higher Education released its annual student out-migration report Tuesday. In 2017, 48.4 percent of students who graduated from a public school in Illinois that enrolled in a four-year college chose one outside of the state. That’s up nearly two percentage points from the fall of 2016.
The breakdown of the numbers shows an increase of more than 2,000 students attending two-year schools, meaning that there was a proportional loss of students to four-year universities even though the 53,000 student enrollment at four-year institutions was similar what it was in 2016.
Of all the graduating students, one in five chose to attend universities in other states.
Eric Lichtenberger, deputy director for information management and research with IBHE, said the two years of the state’s budget impasse, which resulted in limited school and grant funding because lawmakers couldn’t come to terms with freshman Gov. Bruce Rauner on a budget deal showed increases in students going out of state.
“Since the budget impasse, we’ve been experiencing annual increases of at least 3.5 percent, which is somewhat surprising,” he said.
While the impasse surely hurt in-state enrollment, former IBHE board member John Bambenek said student out-migration has been a problem for years.
“The answer requires a lot more in-depth research than a superficiality of blaming a one-time event for a trend that’s been present for a decade,” he said.
In 2002, about 29 percent of four-year college-bound Illinois high school graduates enrolled outside the state.
Students most commonly chose universities in Iowa, Indiana, and Wisconsin, more than any other states, for college.
The continued increase in students picking out-of-state schools not only poses issues for Illinois’ higher education institutions, which need the tuition money, but also for state officials concerned that the college graduates will leave the state for good.
“If you’re from Illinois and you went to an Illinois college, odds are you’re going to become an Illinois taxpayer,” Lichtenberger said.
The budget impasse proved beneficial for universities like Mizzou and the University of Alabama, which actively courted Illinois students, offering financial incentives as well as a track record absent of budget shortfalls.
“There have been several out-of-state institutions that have strategically gone after our best and brightest high school graduates and things only got worse,” Lichtenberger said.