MANY STRUGGLE TO
LOW-INCOME STUDENTS LESS
LIKELY TO COMPLETE DEGREE
Six-year postsecondary completion rate
for students who enroll in college
Research tells us that going to college is still the most effective path out of poverty; yet too few students who start college complete it.22 Just 58% of college students from Illinois graduate in six years. Like the pattern in K-12, the gap between low-income and wealthier students is striking: only 37% of low-income students graduate in six years while 75% of wealthier students do.
Taking remedial non-credit courses lengthens the time necessary to graduate, dimming the likelihood of completion for students who cannot afford either to pay for additional classes or to forgo other work opportunities to stay in school.23
For many students—especially low-income students—going to college in Illinois is a heavy financial lift. But the payoff is clear: adults with a Bachelor’s degree make 68% more than a high school graduate, and adults with an Associate’s degree make 18% more.24
of community college students take remedial coursework
In McHenry County, the local community college and the Regional Office of Education have teamed up to offer courses in high schools that prepare students for college. In five years, McHenry Community College (MCC) has seen enrollment in remedial math drop from 57% to 21%. MCC reports that students who have taken these “dual credit” courses in high school are more likely to graduate early and transfer to a four-year institution.1 The initiative breaks through the silos that exist between high schools and postsecondary institutions, as high school and community college personnel meet regularly to develop curriculum, ensure consistent expectations and track student progress.
MCC started this work with the intention of ensuring more if its students completed their certificates and degrees, recognizing that entering college ready makes a significant different in students’ likelihood of being successful. “It takes a village and we built a village,” Juletta Patrick, Vice President of Academic and Student Services of the partnership that MCC formed with local school leaders from superintendents to high school curriculum developers to make its college readiness programs possible.
What separates McHenry County from other counties is the accessibility of its college readiness programs. While other counties offer dual-credit programs on their community college campuses, McHenry’s High School Plus is taught on high school campuses by high school teachers, meaning students do not need to coordinate transportation to MCC or pay to participate in the programs.
High School Plus includes two programs on high school campuses: 1. College in High School, which includes general education as well as career and technical coursework for college credit at MCC, and 2. Alternative Pathways in Mathematics, a developmental math course aimed at improving college math preparedness. The results speak for themselves. In 2015, 75% of high school seniors who enrolled in the developmental math course placed out of remediation upon college enrollment.
Enrollment in these programs “has exploded, not grown,” says Tony Capalbo, Associate Dean of College and Career Readiness at MCC. In 2015, 300 students enrolled in Alternative Pathways in Mathematics on 10 high school campuses. That same year 1,046 students enrolled in 14 courses on 11 high school campuses in the College in High School program, compared with 744 in the more tradition dual-credit programs offered at MCC.2
While some College in High School courses require prerequisites, many have no restrictions, meaning all students can enjoy the benefits of exposure to college coursework in high school. Students at risk for not having college-ready math skills are guided to Alternative Pathways in Mathematics, after taking a MCC placement test to assess their college math readiness in their junior year.
McHenry County demonstrates the power of disparate high school and postsecondary institutions coming together to collaborate on behalf of students. In the early phases of the initiative, the College and Career Readiness Alliance gathered 500 high school and college personnel to align curricula among McHenry County schools and create the framework for the High School Plus program. Today, the Alliance acts as a support system to ensure collaboration across McHenry County Schools and continuous improvement of programming.
The Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act of 2016 is a transformative step for Illinois students making the transition from high school to two-year colleges, four-year colleges and certificate programs. The legislation addresses the persistent issue of remediation for new college students by offering students not on track for credit-bearing courses to take a transitional math course in high school that prepares students for college, that if the student passes, will guarantee entry into appropriate credit-bearing courses at any community college in the state. Visit Advance Illinois’ PWR web page for more on opportunities the bill presents.
LACK OF FINANCIAL AID, AFFORDABILITY
STIFLE COLLEGE COMPLETION
HALF AS MANY ELIGIBLE STUDENTS GET state map
grants FOR COLLEGE TODAY COMPARED TO 2001
Like federal Pell grants, state-funded Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants provide need-based aid that a student doesn’t have to repay, defraying tuition and fee costs and limiting excessive loan debt for students without the resources to pay for college.25 A little more than a decade ago, in 2001, the state was able to fund all eligible applicants and fully covered average public university or community college tuition and fees. But in the last decade, the number of needy students has grown, and state funding hasn’t kept up.26
Today, MAP serves only about 37% of the students who are eligible and covers about only 32% of tuition and fees at a public university in this state.
The budget impasse of 2015-2016 worsened the challenges for MAP-eligible students, as the state could not pay colleges and universities in a timely manner and could not guarantee that all grants would be paid. In the end, all student awards were paid. However students impacted by the funding crisis reported taking fewer classes, seeking additional hours at work and taking out loans to cover tuition costs.27
the state ranks 48th in college affordability for median-income families.28 A family whose income puts them at the federal poverty level of $23,550 for a family of four will need 48% of its income to cover college costs. A family at the state median income of $53,937 has to dedicate 35% of its income to college costs. This is even after financial aid is taken into account.29
In the next four years, over 1,000 professional positions are expected to become available in the western Illinois community of Quincy.2 However, local business, education and philanthropic leaders worry that there will not be enough qualified workers to fill these positions in agriculture, manufacturing and health care. These leaders formed Quincy Promise in 2015 to provide free tuition at John Wood Community College (JWCC) for local high school graduates who major in a career or technical program that is in demand with local employers. Quincy Promise is currently in the second year of a four-year pilot, and the program’s first 25 students entered JWCC in August 2016. Distinct from many free community college programs, Quincy Promise is entirely privately funded, with major contributions coming from the Great River Economic Foundation and the Community Foundation Serving West Central Illinois & Northeast Missouri.
Quincy Promise has the potential to keep local talent in Quincy while growing the local workforce to attract employers to the area. According to Tracy Orne, the director of public relations and marketing at JWCC, many high school seniors are not aware of the training that they need to enter technical fields. Orne says that employers look for candidates who already have the necessary skills to complete the job: “employers prefer to hire individuals with skills we provide instead of doing on the job training. It saves them precious time and resources.”
To educate families and students, Quincy Promise reaches out to high school seniors and provides them with helpful information as they choose a major or career. High school principals and administrators serve on Quincy Promise’s advisory board, and high school guidance counselors talk to their students about Quincy Promise. JWCC’s career services office eventually plans to match Quincy Promise students with employers in fields that interest them and offer job shadowing and internship opportunities. Other plans include group meetings with employers, a job fair and banquet to further build relationships between private partners and students.
Are Students Successful Postsecondary?
|2016||2014||2011||2006||Leading State||Leading State's
|IL Rank||Rank Change||White||Black||Latino||Low-Income|
|47A||16-month college enrollment of high school graduates||71%||73%|
|47B||Immediate college enrollment of high school graduates||60%||61%||57%||56%|
|47C||9th graders who graduate HS in 4 years and immediately enroll in post-secondary||54%||52%||48%||MA||71%||26||1|
|48A||6 year completion of college enrollees from Illinois who start in community colleges||47%||47%||ND||63%||9/33|
|48B||6 year completion of college enrollees from Illinois who start in public universities||73%||75%||IA||83%||8/42|
|48C||6 year completion of college enrollees from Illinois who start in 4-yr private not-for-profit universities||77%||76%||RI||89%||15/29|
|48D||6 year completion of college enrollees from Illinois (overall)||62%||62%||MA||71%||9/17|
|52A||Freshmen enrolled in remedial courses at community colleges||49%||49%|
|52B||Freshmen enrolled in remedial courses at community colleges in reading||17%||16%|
|52C||Freshmen enrolled in remedial courses at community colleges in math||41%||41%|
|52D||Freshmen enrolled in remedial courses at community colleges in communication||22%||20%|
Are Illinois institutions accessible and effective?
|2014||2012||2009||2004||Leading State||Leading State's Performance||IL Rank||Rank Change||White||Black||Latino||Low-Income|
|50A||Percent of income necessary to pay for 4-year public college for a household at the Federal poverty line||48%||50%||44%||AK||29%||32||5|
|50B||Percent of income necessary to pay for 4-year public college for a household at the median income level||35%||36%||32%||AK||13%||48||1|
|47D||Enrollment of first-time undergraduate class||52%||14%||18%|
|47E||Enrollment of first-time undergraduate completers||63%||11%||11%|
|47F||Illinois population 18-24||55%||17%||20%|
|54A||Freshmen returning full-time 2nd year to 2-year public instutions||63%||59%||58%||51%||AK||98%||9||8|
|54B||Freshmen returning full-time 2nd year to 2-year private NFP instutions||66%||69%||58%||NH||100%||10/29||-4|
|54C||Freshmen returning full-time 2nd year to 2-year private FP instutions||57%||67%||59%||UT||80%||32/42||-14|
|54D||Freshmen returning full-time 2nd year to 4-year public instutions||80%||78%||80%||79%||CA||88%||23||-2|
|54E||Freshmen returning full-time 2nd year to 4-year private NFP instutions||81%||79%||77%||78%||MA||89%||16||3|
|54F||Freshmen returning full-time 2nd year to 4-year private FP instutions||48%||45%||48%||52%||VT||93%||31/46||0|
|51A||4-year public institutions graduating at least 60% of students in 6 years||3/11||3/11||2/11||3/10||IA||100%||18||+1||5/11||1/11||2/11|
|51B||4-year private NFP institutions graduating at least 60% of students in 6 years||21/51||19/51||24/29||22/51||RI||86%||15||+1||27/50||11/46||25/46|
|55A||Completion rate at community colleges||24%||21%||21%||23%||AK||75%||15||6||31%||10%||16%|
|55B||Completion rate at 2-year private NFP institutions||54%||60%||47%||42%||VA||100%||15/29||0||57%||36%||77%|
|55C||Completion rate at 2-year private FP institutions||56%||56%||59%||59%||WY||78%||26/42||2||62%||43%||66%|
|55D||Completion rate at public universities||62%||63%||59%||57%||DE||75%||14||-6||68%||39%||51%|
|55E||Completion rate at 4-year private NFP institutions||66%||66%||65%||62%||MA||76%||14/49||3||68%||42%||61%|
|55F||Completion rate at 4-year private FP institutions||24%||26%||27%||37%||VT||75%||20/45||0||34%||12%||27%|
For more information, including a snapshot of every school in Illinois, visit the Illinois School Report Card.