A Story of Decline: Performance and Policy in Illinois Higher Education
By Laura Perna, Joni Finney, & Patrick Callan
In the mid- and late-1990s, Illinois was a top-performing state in preparing students for college, enrolling residents in college, and keeping college affordable. During the past decade, however, the state has experienced substantial declines in higher education performance. At the same time, the state has made no progress toward ameliorating a persistent pattern of inequity in higher education.
Workforce trends and international competition suggest that Illinois will need larger numbers of better-educated workers over the coming decades. At the same time, demographic trends, combined with drops in higher education performance, appear to be by race/ethnicity, by income, and by region.
The state for a highly educated workforce, combined with demographic trends and declining higher education performance, present significant challenges for higher education in Illinois. The state is also facing substantial fiscal shortfalls, but it is important to note that the decline in higher education performance began before the recent budget challenges; it is likely that increased funding alone will not improve performance. The magnitude of these challenges shows the need to develop policy leadership capacity for higher education in Illinois, identifying and gaining consensus on statewide goals and priorities, and determining how to use available and thereby reach state goals.