Free Tuition Coming to Illinois’ U of I – Urbana

Amaris E. Rodriguez, Opinions Editor

On Aug. 27, the University of Illinois Urbana announced it would provide free tuition and campus fees for in-state students whose family income is below $61,000 per year.

This move is in hopes of retaining college students in-state as many are going to out-of-state colleges due to lower tuition prices. For the 2016-2017 fiscal year, Illinois’ average annual in-state tuition was $17,371, making it the tenth most expensive state to attend college in.

With college being so expensive, the University of Illinois-Urbana hopes that by offering free tuition, students would be encouraged to attend. In the state of Illinois, undergraduate student debt increased 21 percent from 2013 to 2017.

Getting rid of student debt is a big reason why many prospective students might reconsider U of I – Urbana.

Amundsen High School school counselor, David Tucker, realizes the big impact a free tuition program might have on prospective students.

“We worked with students with low to moderate income communities and the opportunity to have free tuition at U of I will really incentivize kids to remain in Illinois,” Tucker said.

NEIU hasn’t released any statements on offering free tuition. NEIU was impacted by the lack of Illinois’ budget for two years and was forced to cut expenses.  Faculty members were forced to take one furlough day, and NEIU laid-off nearly 180 employees.

U of I -Urbana has the resources to take on a project like the “Illinois Commitment.”

The money to fund the free tuition program is set to be paid for through the university’s revenue, which would see them through four years.

However, the program is not going to be applicable for every U of I student. In order to qualify for the free tuition, students must meet the following requirements: Be an Illinois resident (parents of FAFSA must be Illinois residents as well), family income of $61,000 or less, family assets are less than $50,000, admitted as new freshman or transfer students, and must be under 24-years-old.

The financial aid package is aimed to cover most expenses but students will still have to pay for some out of pocket. The program does not cover certain fees relating to individual courses, summer and winter classes or any books needed for classes. Study abroad programs are also not covered under the Illinois Commitment and would have to be paid for by the student through other means.

Applying students will be eligible to receive further financial aid in the form of merit-based scholarships, outside scholarships, loans and student employment in order to pay for any costs not covered by the Illinois Commitment.

The university has also promised the Illinois Commitment program would cover the tuition cost for any of their programs, as they vary from college and majors.

The program will also only be aimed at full-time undergraduate students pursuing their first bachelor’s degree.

The program hopes to provide university students a reason to pursue an education in Illinois and become a contributing part of the economy.

Robert J. Jones, the chancellor for U of I – Urbana said, “We think it’s going to be critically important in keeping folks here so they can graduate and be part of the economy that helps drive the economic vitality in years ahead.”

The Illinois Commitment program is set to take effect Fall 2019.