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'Illinois needs to be forward thinking' on higher ed, McGuire says

By Rock Island Today Reports | Sep 27, 2016

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Between discounted tuition and special grants, a Wisconsin university has successfully ramped up recruitment of Illinois students, and Illinois ought to take a page from its playbook, a Republican candidate for the General Assembly says.

Illinois residents comprise 16 percent of this year’s freshman class at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville — a school just 30 minutes from the Illinois and Iowa borders and two hours from the quad cities.

More than 10 years ago, Platteville launched the Tri-State Initiative, which gives students from Illinois and Iowa a discount tuition, as well as a $1,000 grant. They still pay about $4,000 more than in-state residents, but the total cost, including tuition, fees, food and lodging, is just $18,374 with the grant. Tuition and fees are $12,184 — lower than the in-state cost at Illinois schools, which is $13,660 at Illinois State University and ranges from $15,700 to $20,700 at the University of Illinois.

Brandi McGuire, Republican candidate for House District 72, told Rock Island Today that the high cost of attending Illinois colleges and universities is a frequent topic of conversation around her family’s dinner table. One of her children attends a local community college and works full-time to pay for school. Another will graduate this year from high school and plans to go out of state for college to find “more reasonable tuition costs,” she said.

Because of the price tag, parents like her are losing their children to schools in other states and Illinois is missing out on an educated workforce, she said.

“In regards to higher education, Illinois needs to be forward thinking like the state of Wisconsin,” McGuire said. “In the long-term, many of them, upon completing college, will stay and work in Wisconsin.”

She said Illinois colleges and universities should freeze tuition and reform spending, in part by scrutinizing what they spend on administration. Policy analysts say paying for a “bloated” administration has helped drive up the cost of tuition at schools across the state. Between 2004 and 2010, the number of administrators grew by 30 percent while the number of college students grew by only 2.3 percent, according to the Illinois Policy Institute.

On average, Illinois college students pay $2,025 each toward administrative costs at schools across the state, according to the Illinois Policy Institute. School-by-school, the per-student cost ranges from $872 at Eastern Illinois University to $3,609 at CSU. Chicago State University’s nearly equal ratio of administrators to faculty. CSU has 308 administrators and 350 faculty members.

“It would be interesting to know the faculty to administrator ratio of Wisconsin compared to Illinois,” McGuire said. “This is akin to a local grade school having 18 teachers and 18 principals at the same time.”

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University of Wisconsin - Platteville