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Meaningful movement on keeping our college students home

September 15, 2018

Illinois is losing too many college students to other states.

Finally, there’s some movement.

The University of Illinois is taking a significant step by offering free in-state tuition to more families who need financial help. We hope steps similar to this are repeated across the state, plugging what amounts to a yearslong brain drain.

It is needed. The steady attrition of college students to other states is a hidden exodus.

We’ve written plenty about the others hitting the road — the exasperated residents fed up with the second-highest property taxes in America, the business owners saddled with surging workers’ comp costs, the companies that can’t stomach the burdens.

States with progressive tax structures, balanced budgets and pro-growth strategies are more than happy to roll out the red carpet to one and all.

Our population has constricted so much, there’s a very real hazard a congressional seat will be stripped away after the next U.S. census.

Students leave for similar financial reasons. U of I’s tuition has a long-standing reputation for being high. Other state schools face similar public relations problems about costs — some fair, many not.

Either way, the Illinois Board of Higher Education estimates the number of Illinois first-year students enrolling outside our borders jumped more than 60 percent between 2000 and 2014.

Our state schools deserve better. Each one has a reason to be proud, and many are world-class institutions.

Instead, students are being lured away by aggressive recruiting and financial perks that lessen loans or the load on parents. Who could blame them?

Similar to those taxpayers and companies who bolted, many students never come back. Not all, but many. They find friends and connections. They get jobs after graduation and set down roots and open checking accounts. They get new license plates that don’t have Abe Lincoln. They stop being Illinoisans. Gone.

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