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Nationwide, State Budget Cuts Disproportionately Hit Low-income, Minority College Students

When a state budget impasse drained money from public universities and colleges in Illinois beginning in 2015, some were forced to lay off hundreds of employees, shorten their semesters, even warn they might shut down. Enrollment plummeted. Credit ratings fell to junk status.

Chicago State University, for instance, which has a student body that is mainly black and Hispanic and drawn from its neighborhood on the city’s South Side, cut 300 workers from its payroll and — its very future in limbo — managed to attract fewer than 100 new freshmen in the fall.

The flagship University of Illinois, far more of whose students are white and wealthier, was not immune from the predicament. But with cash reserves to tap, and an increase in enrollment that brought in more tuition revenue, it has suffered a far less drastic impact from the still-ongoing budget crisis.

States have cut spending on higher education since the last recession by a collective $8.7 billion a year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, or CBPP. That will come as no surprise to students and families who have seen their tuition at four-year colleges and universities rise as a result by an average of 33 percent during that time.