SPRINGFIELD – Two suburban senators want to keep college tuition low and retain home-grown talent in Illinois. They hope that by creating another Big Ten school in the state, Illinois will be able to do just that. State Sens. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) and Michael Connelly (R-Naperville) have introduced legislation that will study the feasibility of making one of the current state universities a Big Ten school.
Senate Bill 3526 will create a study commission to explore the possibility of establishing an existing Illinois public university as another Big Ten university. The bill passed the Senate Higher Education Committee on March 19 and now moves to the full Senate for further consideration.
The two lawmakers said the idea developed after learning more and more suburban students leave Illinois to attend other, high-priced Big Ten institutions out-of-state. Sen. Murphy said Illinois is the fifth largest state in the country, which creates a competitive admission process at the state’s lone flagship university.
“The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has become highly competitive to the point where we are seeing students with excellent grades and test scores get shut out of attending our in-state, public Big Ten school,” Sen. Murphy said. “Many end up choosing to look out-of-state to receive a Big Ten education, costing them and their parents tens of thousands of dollars in higher out-of-state tuition. We should make it easier for these students to stay in Illinois, not look for greener pastures across state lines.”
Sen. Connelly noted that other surrounding – and smaller – states have multiple public Big Ten schools, namely Michigan and Indiana. He said he hoped this effort could be what is needed to retain young people and keep tuition costs lower.
“Given the large number of Illinois residents who attend Big Ten schools outside of our state, the demand for a second in-state Big Ten university is clearly high. It is my hope this commission can find a way to deliver a higher education system that gives our young people the opportunities they seek at a price they and their parents can afford,” he said.
The commission would be comprised of higher education professionals, one member from each of the four legislative caucuses, an Illinois resident paying out-of-state tuition to a Big Ten institution, and a student from Illinois who has left the state to attend another Big Ten institution. The commission’s report would be due to the General Assembly by Jan. 1, 2015.