Pensions add 46% to cost of Illinois in-state tuition

April 26, 2022

An Illinois Policy Institute investigation found pension spending has increased 510%, eating up funds for Illinois universities


CONTACT: Micky Horstman (312) 607-4977

Pensions add 46% to cost of Illinois in-state tuition
An Illinois Policy Institute investigation found pension spending has increased 510%, eating up funds for Illinois universities

CHICAGO (April 26, 2022) – The cost to attend Illinois public universities has risen dramatically in the past 15 years, a new report finds.

According to an Illinois Policy Institute investigation, in-state tuition rose by an average of 46%, adjusted for inflation, at Illinois’ seven largest public universities from 2007 to 2022. That’s because the state of Illinois reduced critical funding for university operations while spending more on higher education pensions, leaving families to make up the difference. The state saw a 23% drop in higher education operations funding, while increasing pension spending by 510% within the same timeframe.

“College students in Illinois face rising costs for their education but fail to receive increased value from their universities. Forcing college students to reach into their pockets to pay significantly more for school is bad enough, but the state isn’t even close to paying off its pension debt after prioritizing pensions over education,” said Adam Schuster, vice president of policy for the Illinois Policy Institute.

Average in-state tuition in Illinois is the fifth-most expensive in the nation, and the highest in the Midwest.

“We need constitutional pension reform in Illinois to rein in pension costs and redirect more higher-education dollars to where they’re needed most. Without long-term structural reforms, Illinois college students will continue to see tuition rise and the state’s investment in their education fall,” Schuster said.

Takeaways from the Illinois Policy Institute analysis: 

  • Students native to Illinois pay 40% more than other Midwest students on average to attend the largest public universities in their respective states.
  • State Universities Retirement System pension payments made up just 9% of the state’s higher education spending in 2007. Now they take 44% of those dollars. That leaves $800 million fewer for school operations spending.
  • While the scholarships proposed in Illinois’ 2023 state budget will support tuition relief for some, constitutional pension reform would guarantee it for all students without harming the rightfully earned retirements of Illinois educators.

To read more about Illinois’ rising tuition prices, visit

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