As state funding for colleges and universities declines in Illinois, the lieutenant governor said the schools need to find ways to remain accessible to a wide range of students.
The problem is multi-faceted. The state legislature has cut support for universities in recent years. Those schools then raise tuition. That means more students rely on financial aid, but the state has been cutting that too.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon said this should be a concern, especially in light of Illinois' goal to have 60% of the population go beyond high school by the year 2025. That figure is currently at 40%.
"In the last recession, people with a college degree had almost exactly half of the unemployment of people with only a high school degree. And over the course of a lifetime, people with a college degree earn 74% more than people with a high school degree," Simon said.
Simon issued a report detailing ways some schools are making themselves more affordable – such as partnering with less-expensive community colleges, or allowing students to rent textbooks instead of having to buy them.
Simon said there will be a conference later this year at which schools can share their best ideas.