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Report examines why students leave or stay in state for college

April 20, 2023 (CHICAGO) —A new report released today by Discovery Partners Institute’s Illinois Workforce and Education Research Collaborative (IWERC) at the University of Illinois System sheds light on Illinois high school seniors’ processes for deciding on a college.

“As we look to stem the outmigration of our students in Illinois, it’s important to understand why people are leaving,” said IWERC Director Meg Bates, who co-authored the report. “In understanding what drives students to stay or leave, policy makers can formulate better strategies to incentivize more students to stay.”

IWERC, in partnership with the Office of the Governor, Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), surveyed more than 1,200 Illinois high school seniors who intended to go to four-year college in Fall 2022 to find out why some students leave and others choose to stay in Illinois. Conducted in May 2022, the survey found that most students consider four factors when choosing a college: cost, location, reputation, and social environment.

This survey builds on IBHE’s outmigration report which provides insight on the number and racial/ethnic makeup of recent public high school graduates and college enrollment patterns of recent Illinois public high school graduates. The report includes data on Illinois public high school graduates who enroll in-state and out-of-state, disaggregated by race/ethnicity and income status and which states are top destinations for students who enroll out-of-state.

“The state has ramped up efforts in the last few years to make it easier and more affordable for our high school graduates to enroll in college in Illinois, like increasing the Monetary Assistance Program funding and creating a single application for all of the state’s public universities through the Common App,” said IBHE Executive Director Ginger Ostro. “Illinois has strong, high-quality colleges and universities. We want more students to be aware of all the programs and opportunities available in-state.”

IWERC also found key differences between Illinois students who chose to stay in-state for college and those who leave for college. In-state students were more influenced by cost, the survey found, while students who chose to leave the state for college were more influenced by the perceived academic reputation, social environment, and economic opportunity of out-of-state schools.

This report on 4-year college-goers is the first in a series, with reports coming soon on 2-year college-goers, students not enrolling in college, and how the pandemic influenced students’ college decisions.

Read the full report here: