Coalition for Transforming Higher Education Funding Statement on FY24 State Budget

Hailing Unprecedented Actions to Increase College Affordability. Watching for Funding Approach that Systematically Increases Adequacy and Equity

As a group of equity-minded advocates from across the state of Illinois, we celebrate the General Assembly’s continued work this legislative session to ensure more Illinois students can attend college, persist, and earn a degree. By approving another significant increase to the Monetary Award Program (MAP), coupled with an increase in institutional funding, our legislature affirms what we’ve long known: an investment in our students is an investment in the future of Illinois as a whole.

After decades of underfunding MAP, the General Assembly’s approval of an additional $100M for the need-based student aid program marks the second year in a row of record-setting investment in one of the state’s most important levers for increasing college affordability. This increase will allow the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) to offer MAP grants to every eligible applicant even as it increases average awards. According to ISAC, the average grant size is estimated to increase by 16 percent, and the maximum grant will increase by roughly 18 percent. Combined with PELL grants, this additional investment will allow nearly all community college students and as many as 40 percent of public university students at or below median income levels to complete their postsecondary degree debt-free. We applaud both Governor Pritzker and the General Assembly for this strong show of support for our college students from low-income households. 

We also applaud the legislature’s decision to approve a 7 percent increase in institutional funding for the state’s public universities – the largest such increase in 20 years, and consistent with the Governor’s proposal. Access to and success in higher education for all students requires investment in financial aid as well as in the institutions themselves. The state is reversing its track record of underinvesting in its colleges and universities, and this will not only help universities manage tuition costs, but will also help ensure institutions can give students the supports they need to succeed. 

While we applaud the state’s new investments, it is important to note that without an equitable distribution of new funds, as recommended for a second year by the Illinois Board of Higher Education, we cannot be sure that new dollars will follow public university students with the greatest academic, and nonacademic needs. Until Illinois adopts an approach to institutional funding wherein funding is stable and predictable to institutions and dollars are prioritized for historically underrepresented students—Black, Latinx and students from low-income households—to keep tuition costs low, and to provide for adequate academic, counseling, mental health, and other supports, all the MAP investments in the world will fall short in addressing college persistence and completion gaps. With that in mind, we call on our community, our lawmakers, and our Governor to pay attention and engage as the Commission on Equitable Public University Funding prepares to release its recommendations for an adequacy- and equity-based funding model for our public 4-year institutions. 

With great anticipation for the Commission’s recommendations, we applaud the General Assembly for its FY24 budget and look forward to collaborating to ensure that Illinois’ higher education funding keeps our students’ needs as their compass to better support their college success for the future.