This possibility, which was proposed by State Senator Bill Bradley, would shift state support from public universities to tuition grants, which, Bradley believes, would reduce operating costs for universities and increase accountability of students, as well as encourage them to remain in Illinois. Although Bradley later acknowledged that his proposal needs work, he nonetheless maintains that it “elevates” the discussion about higher education.
While Bradley’s bill seems extreme, it officially recognizes a trend toward the privatization of public higher education over the last twenty-five years. For example, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s budget proposal, which reduces state support for public universities by almost 33 percent, reportedly represents a state appropriation not seen since 1988.
This trend reverses public commitment to universities, as a means of social development and cultural preservation, that has been central to the United States since its inception. Moreover, this trend, which Diane Ravitch (2013) has shown to be ineffective, limits a college education to an economic investment when it is better understood as an opportunity for encountering new ideas, developing knowledge, engaging the arts, and cultivating insights (89).
At this time of tremendous economic challenges, Illinois needs legislators who have bold and courageous visions for its future, not ones who want to abandon it to market forces.
Ravitch, Diane. 2013. Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.