Illinois community colleges cost state over $215,000 per on-time graduate
Millions of dollars in taxpayer money are being spent in Illinois to support students and the community colleges in Illinois, but most of the students never graduate.
A pension crisis, a state without a budget and unresolved union contracts in Illinois are likely to cause some taxpayers to ask whether their tax dollars are being spent responsibly. On the surface, education seems like a good investment of taxpayer dollars, but graduation results are telling a different story.
Over 300,000 students enrolled in Illinois community colleges for the 2015-16 school year. The U.S. Department of Education and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) said that over $39 million in Illinois tax dollars are used to provide Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants to community college students for each school year -- money that does not need to be paid back. Students receive an average of $942 each year in MAP grant money to help them pay tuition, but 76 percent of this money is given to students who don't graduate.
Illinois also put aside $268 million in taxpayer money for subsidies that went to community colleges in 2015, or approximately $3,549 per graduate. This doesn't include the amount of federal taxpayer and local taxpayer dollars that went to these schools.
An associate degree generally takes two years to complete, but it takes some students longer.
When all of the tax dollars are factored in, community colleges in Illinois spent over $3.5 billion, or approximately $215,228 for each student who graduated on time.
Additionally, graduation rates for some Illinois community colleges are dismal. Olive Harvey in Chicago didn't have a single student graduate on time for the 2015-16 school year. (Eleven percent of its students did graduate with additional time.)
Wright and Harold Washington, both in Chicago, each had 2 percent of their students graduate on time. When adding those who needed extra time, 15 percent of students at Wright and 19 percent of students at Harold Washington graduated.
Malcolm X in Chicago, which focuses on health science programs, spent $32 million in taxpayer dollars, but had just 3 percent of its students graduate on time. Only 7 percent graduated with additional time, the U.S. Department of Education and the ISBE said.
An average of 11 percent of students who attend Illinois' 46 business community colleges graduate within the expected time frame, and 24 percent more graduate when given additional time.
Not all of the community colleges are having problems getting students to graduate, with 68 percent of students who attended Frontier Community College in Fairfield during the 2015-16 school year graduating in the expected time frame. The number of graduates jumped to 76 percent when the students were given additional time.
Overall, community colleges had more faculty than on-time graduates last year. There were 16,377 students who graduated within the expected time frame, and the colleges had 16,425 paid faculty members. Community college staff and professors represent $4.74 billion worth of the State University Retirement System's $20 billion pension debt.