Illinois is experiencing brain drain.
Just as adults are migrating to states with better business climates, so too are new high school graduates.
In 2013, 40 percent of new Illinois high school graduates who chose to attend public four-year universities went out of state.
And many may never return to live in the Land of Lincoln.
Each time this happens we should ask ourselves: How did we let down the next generation?
Look no further than Eastern Illinois University.
Enrollment at that school has dropped from 11,630 students in 2010 to 8,913 in 2014. That’s a 23 percent drop in just four years.
And the story doesn’t end there.
Enrollments are also down markedly in Macomb at Western Illinois University and in Carbondale at Southern Illinois University.
And in Urbana-Champaign, the University of Illinois has seen interest from in-state students plummet.
As I noted last week, according to U of I data, in 2006 58 percent of Illinois students offered admission to the U of I chose to attend. In 2013, that number dropped to 45 percent.
This problem has caught the attention of state Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, a member of the House Higher Education Committee.
The primary reason students are choosing to study out of state is cost.
Often, once financial aid packages are factored in, it is less expensive for students to earn degrees elsewhere.
“The cost of doing business is high in Illinois,” he said. “The cost of liability insurance has gone up 1,000 percent over the last 20 years for the U of I. The cost of worker’s compensation has gone way up significantly for our state universities. And kids work part-time on college campuses, and our minimum wage is higher than other states. All of these things make it more expensive for universities and businesses to operate in this state.”
And college in Illinois is expensive.
For example, if you are an engineering student entering the U of I this fall you can plan to spend $35,340 per year for tuition, room and board and other expenses. That’s $141,360 for the degree — if you are able to graduate in four years.
But Batinick said that’s only part of the story.
“There is a laundry list of mandates that are imposed on our universities that also make it more expensive for them,” he said.
And that, of course, jacks up tuition and means fewer dollars for financial aid.
And if you think Illinois universities are struggling to compete because the state doesn’t provide adequate funding for colleges, think again.
Illinois ranks third in the nation for its state spending per full-time university student, Batinick said.
Yep, he said, third.
And much of that money flowing to state universities is going toward our state’s unsustainable pension system. Our state is in desperate need of pension reform.
Businesses — and workers — are leaving Illinois because of the state’s business climate. And now students are choosing to study out-of-state for essentially the same reason.
Until Illinois addresses fundamental cost-of-doing-business issues, the migration of students and workers will continue.
Scott Reeder is a columnist with Illinois News Network, a project of the Illinois Policy Institute.
Follow Scott Reeder on Twitter at:@scottreeder