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Our View

Our View: UIC plan should help keep best, brightest in Illinois

A few months after a similar announcement at the state’s flagship university, there was more good news for local high schoolers with Tuesday’s announcement that the University of Illinois-Chicago will be offering tuition waivers for top students.

UIC will use its share of $25 million the state set aside for public university merit scholarships to offer tuition waivers to in-state students who meet academic benchmarks. That’ll cover the base tuition and fees of $13,664, but not room and board, which runs at least $10,000 a year. UIC calls the effort the Chancellor’s Fellows Program.

In late August, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced its own program aimed at keeping students close to home, covering tuition and basic fees for all Illinois undergraduates whose family income is below the statewide median of $61,000. UIUC officials estimated it would cost around $15,000 a student and could vary based on major.

UIC is employing a narrower approach by targeting top-achieving students, and can do so because it hasn’t seen the same enrollment drop-off as many other public universities in Illinois. In fact, Provost Susan Poser said her school saw record enrollment last year, although she said there still are top students who chose to leave Illinois for college.

That said, getting into UIUC is no small feat either, so the broad-based plan there makes plenty of sense on its own accord.

Hopefully, other schools can follow suit. While each individual student’s decisions about their future should be their own, it stands to reason giving our Illinois young people access to affordable, quality education will persuade more of them to attend in-state colleges and universities, and go on to become productive contributors to society here in Illinois.

As we noted when looking at the UIUC program, covering tuition isn’t just about getting kids into school or keeping Illinoisans from seeking higher ed elsewhere, it’s also about helping them graduate without shouldering a hefty debt load.

Further, we also repeat our support of any measure that ensures broad access to quality two-year schools such as Kishwaukee Community College in DeKalb County, as these institutions provide foundational educational opportunities – primarily to high school graduates who can keep living at home, but also to high school students pursuing dual credit courses as well as older students who might be returning to school.

Illinois absolutely should be in the business of higher education, and doing that the right way means taking a chance on something like UIC’s Chancellor’s Fellows Program.

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