Illinois State University President Larry Dietz on Thursday announced new scholarships that could keep high schoolers from leaving the state, as he called on lawmakers to revamp the way they fund higher education.
AIM High scholarship program, which universities are being asked to match. It’s aimed at getting more high school graduates to attend in-state colleges and universities.
ISU will also begin offering free tuition to five selected McLean County students each year, based in part on their record of community service.
“One of Illinois State’s core values is civic engagement, and this is another way to put our money where our values are,” Dietz said.
Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington announced a similar scholarship program aimed at McLean County students earlier this year.
ISU has been one of a few bright spots in Illinois higher education in recent years. ISU’s freshman class grew by 10 percent this fall, as other schools like Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and Western Illinois University faced steep declines.
Partly as a result, ISU gets only $3,551 in state funding per student—45 percent lower than the state average, Dietz said. He called it a “challenging irony.”
Dietz said he plans to lobby lawmakers this year to craft a new funding formula for higher education that’s based on performance. That new model should “reward high-performing universities—those that enroll students who persist, graduate, and get the jobs that make them taxpaying Illinois citizens,” Dietz said.
“I want to make this clear: I am not asking for a handout, and I am not tone deaf about the continuing financial challenges facing this state,” Dietz said. “I have always requested—and what I will continue to request—is a fair, equitable, and predictable formula for the state to support its public universities. And Illinois State is among the highest-performing public institutions.”
ISU received $66.3 million in this year’s state budget, a 2 percent increase.
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