By Illinois Radio Network
SPRINGFIELD – More than half of Illinois’ households would qualify to be able to send a student to the University of Illinois with tuition paid for by taxpayers this fall after changes made at the request of the governor.
The University of Illinois will expand its tuition assistance program to cover half of the households in the state, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.
The announcement came one day after the state’s flagship university’s board of trustees approved increasing tuition costs for incoming freshmen for the first time in six years and approved a 40 percent pay raise for University of Illinois President Tim Killeen.
“A central priority for me in this office is making college more affordable for those who can least afford it,” Pritzker said Friday in Chicago. “The University of Illinois’ trustees have agreed to my request that they expand free tuition to families who can least afford the costs of college.”
He said students should be able to access the expanded program in time for the fall 2020 semester.
The Illinois Commitment program offers enrollment tuition-free to in-state residents whose household income is below $61,000 annually. A ten percent increase, as Pritzker said, would increase that threshold to $67,100. Tuition is just part of the cost of attending college. The cost of housing, books and fees that students paid last fall totaled $31,390. Much of that would not be covered by the program.
The median Illinois household income was $63,575 annually between 2014 and 2018, according to the U.S. Census.
Representatives for the university didn’t immediately respond to questions about how much the program expansion would cost.
The university’s board on Thursday approved raising the price of tuition by 1.8 percent at its Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses and 1 percent at its Springfield campus. The increase would only affect incoming freshmen. The college’s Urbana-Champaign campus will cost $12,254 for freshmen attending in the fall of 2020. Many of the university’s students already receive some sort of financial aid.
Students whose households own more than $50,000 in assets don’t qualify to participate in the program.
Illinois lawmakers have for years been pushing to implement a statewide “college promise” program that would guarantee the first two years at a community college or comparably-priced school are tuition and fee-free to in-state residents.
Illinois Radio Network can be reached at News@WJBC.com.