In the mid- and late-1990s, Illinois was a top-performing state in preparing students for college, enrolling residents in college, and keeping college affordable:
- Compared with residents of other states, large percentages of Illinoisans earned a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) diploma by age 24; earned high scores on college entrance exams; and enrolled in college immediately after high school.
- Illinois led the nation in the proportion of young adults (ages 18 to 24) and working-age adults (ages 25 to 44) who were enrolled in college.
- Illinois was a leader in keeping higher education affordable for families, as measured by (1) the share of family income required to attend the state's public two-year and four-year institutions and (2) the availability of state need-based financial aid.
During the past decade, however, the state has experienced substantial declines in higher education performance. At the same time, the state has made no progress toward ameliorating a persistent pattern of inequity in higher education.