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Illinoisans unimpressed with quality of state's colleges and universities


Jim Paul, communications director, Institute of Government and Public Affairs

Stan Ikenberry
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Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
   Stanley Ikenberry

MEDIA ADVISORY: Results of the survey discussed below will be presented Tuesday (June 24), at 10:50 a.m. during the Higher Education Summit at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St. Robert F. Rich and Stanley O. Ikenberry will be available for comment immediately following the presentation.
CHICAGO — While a large majority of Illinoisans say higher education is very important to achieve success, most of them believe the state’s colleges and universities are good but not great, according to a survey conducted for the University of Illinois. 

On the other hand, a substantial majority of respondents support investing more state money in higher education, even if it means investing less in other areas.

The survey, conducted by Knowledge Networks for the University of Illinois’ Higher Education Summit, found that only about 11 percent of Illinoisans believe the quality of education at public four-year colleges and universities is excellent.

At the same time, about 73 percent of Illinois residents view a college education as very important to achieving success, but are worried about rising tuition costs.  Only about 44 percent believe the value of higher education is worth the cost.

Robert Rich
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Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Robert Rich

“This is a punch in the ribs for public higher education in Illinois,” said Robert F. Rich, the director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs. “Those of us in higher education have not done a good job of communicating to the public the overall value of higher education.”

The Higher Education Summit brings together leaders from government, business, civic organizations and education in a discussion of higher education’s role in the state. More than 160 were registered for Tuesday’s meeting at the Chicago Cultural Center.

The summit is sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IGPA, the U. of I. College of Media, and the Forum on the Future of Public Education at the Urbana-Champaign campus.

The survey of 1,143 Illinoisans over the age of 18 was conducted May 5-22 by Knowledge Networks, which used a randomly recruited online research panel that is demographically representative of the state’s population. The survey has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 5.25 percentage points.

“Colleges and universities are key to building a secure future for young people, Illinois communities and the economy,” said U. of I. President Emeritus Stanley O. Ikenberry, one of the organizers of Tuesday’s summit. “Our survey results are likely to trigger a spirited conversation about where higher education stands in this state and what needs to be done to move forward.”

The survey indicated that Illinoisans believe lowering tuition and fees and offering more financial aid to needy students should be priorities if the state invests more in colleges and universities. But the survey also indicated that improving buildings, expanding programs, funding more research that benefits local economic development, and building capacity to enroll more students all ranked lower in the survey’s priority listing.

“There appears to be a real disconnect between the public’s priorities for investment in higher education and the priorities sometimes proposed.” Rich said.

The full survey will be available at or

Editor’s note: To contact Stanley Ikenberry, call 217-265-5409.
                        To contact Robert Rich, call 217-244-8550 or 217-493-9345.