State Disinvestment in Higher Education: Student Debt Issue

Release: February 29, 2024

State funding for Illinois colleges and universities in FY 2024 was still some 39% lower than it was in FY 2000 when adjusting for inflation and this long-term disinvestment in higher education over the last 20 years has had significant consequences. It has forced public universities to increase their tuition and fees, causing the average cost of in-state tuition at Illinois’ public universities to increase 121 percent, substantially higher than the national average in this time period, making college in Illinois considerably less affordable. It has forced virtually all Illinois students to incur student loans in order to pay for college, especially Black and Latinx students, perpetuating an educational attainment gap. This report touches on the widespread issue of student debt and why Illinois needs to prioritize investing adequately in its public higher education system.

Analysis of Illinois’ FY 2024 Enacted General Fund Budget

Release: August 31, 2023

On June 7, 2023, Governor Pritzker signed the General Fund Budget for FY 2024 into law (the “FY 2024 Enacted GF Budget”). This budget was markedly different than any previous one proposed by Pritzker and passed by the General Assembly—or any other Illinois governor and General Assembly dating back to Jim Edgar in the mid-1990s, for one, simple reason: Illinois’ General Fund is in the healthiest fiscal condition it has been for decades.

In fact, when it comes to the health of the state’s General Fund, things have changed dramatically since Governor Pritzker was first sworn into office. Back then in 2019, Governor Pritzker inherited an $8 billion backlog of unpaid bills from Governor Rauner’s Administration. That was significant, as it meant roughly 30 percent of all General Fund expenditures during Rauner’s final year as governor constituted deficit spending. Unfortunately, that was also nothing new, as Illinois had failed to produce anything close to a balanced budget in its General Fund at any time over the prior two decades plus.

Many of the structural fiscal flaws that created years of deficits remain in place. Which means Illinois decision-makers have the rare opportunity to consider reforming the state’s fiscal system not during a crisis—but while the General Fund is on an upward trajectory, with an eye toward building the capacity needed to sustain investments in core services over the long haul. The FY 2024 Enacted GF Budget analysis takes an in depth look at Illinois’ revenue and spending in the General Fund for the current fiscal year.

Why Illinois Should Enhance its Investment in Higher Education

Release: March 28, 2023

After adjusting for inflation, state funding for Illinois colleges and universities has fallen by nearly 50% since 2000, while tuition has more than doubled, making it increasingly difficult for students from low- and middle-income families generally, and Black and Latinx students specifically, to afford getting a higher education degree. Despite growing evidence that a college degree is more important than ever for success in the labor market and in spite of recent funding increases, the report finds that, after inflation, Illinois’ General Fund support for Higher Education has declined significantly over the last two decades, and is 46 percent less now in real terms than in 2000. To help make up for that loss of General Fund support, the average annual student tuition and fee cost of attending a public four-year university in Illinois increased by 115 percent—after inflation—between 2000 and 2021. This Report both documents the positive impact gaining a college education has on everything from wages, economic development, and community health and wellbeing, to social mobility, and calls upon the Illinois General Assembly to invest adequate resources in higher education.

Analysis of Illinois' FY 2023 Enacted General Fund Budget

Release: July 1, 2022

Due to Illinois’ long-term, structural fiscal challenges, citizens of Illinois have grown accustomed to General Fund budgets that are focused on cutting, or limiting the cuts to, core services. Which is truly unfortunate, given that 95 percent of all General Fund expenditures on services go to the four core areas of Education, Healthcare, Human Services, and Public Safety. However this past April, the Illinois General assembly passed a General Fund budget for FY 2023 (the “FY 2023 Enacted GF Budget”) that was notably different from the vast majority of budgets passed into law over the last twenty-some odd years. That is because, rather than focus on cuts, the FY 2023 Enacted GF Budget calls for increasing year-to-year spending in every one of those four core service areas. This counters a trend of imposing real, inflation-adjusted cuts to all or most core services that goes all the way back to FY 2000. Moreover, the FY 2023 Enacted GF Budget—when considered in combination with the supplemental appropriations that were passed covering certain aspects of the FY 2022 Enacted General Fund Budget (the “FY 2022 Enacted GF Budget”)—includes a commitment to being fiscally responsible that is far more substantive than rhetorical. This also stands in stark contrast to most General Fund budgets enacted over the last two decades, which on the whole paid lip-service to being responsible—without implementing initiatives that strengthened Illinois’ fiscal system in any meaningful way.

Read the full report to learn more about the initiatives taken to offset economic challenges and decades of service cuts for Illinois.

Analysis of the Illinois FY 2023 Proposed General Fund Budget

Release: March 29, 2022

The FY 2023 Proposed General Fund Budget (the “FY 2023 GF Proposal”) makes one fact abundantly clear: spending on services is not driving the state’s fiscal problems. Big picture, Illinois’ ongoing disinvestment in General Fund services is harming communities across the state for one simple reason: over 95 percent of all such spending goes to the four, core areas of Education (including Early Childhood, K-12, and Higher Education), Healthcare, Human Services, and Public Safety. The FY 2023 GF Budget Proposal is a change of pace, reversing the trend of disinvesting in General Fund services by increasing spending for every single General Fund service category and making moves to get Illinois’ fiscal house in order.