SIU alumnus Kyle Westbrook is the founding executive director of the Partnership for College Completion, whose newest report lays out the crisis facing higher education in Illinois and how this disproportionately affects low-income and first-generation students.
In 1991, I was admitted to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. …
But as I look around today in Illinois, I see that the path that allowed me to attend college is no longer open to other low-income students.
In 2017, a student with the same economic profile that I had as a teenager would owe about $13,000 per year. Put simply, a public university education in Illinois is no longer the on-ramp to the middle class.
A dizzying array of statistics illustrates this disturbing trend. Our public colleges and universities are meant to be engines of upward economic mobility, but too often are unable to lift up low-income and first-generation students. In fact, the chances of a low-income student actually graduating from college today are only marginally better than they were 30 years ago.
A large percentage of these students are African American and Latino. For these students of color, Illinois’ system of higher education reinforces racial inequality, prevents social mobility and widens the chasm between the haves and have-nots.