CHICAGO - Illinois high school graduates have increasingly chosen to enroll in out-of-state colleges and universities in recent years, according to new state data.
The Illinois Board of Higher Education's figures reveal that the exodus is continuing, the Chicago Tribune reported.
More than 48 percent of public high school graduates who enrolled in four-year universities in 2017 decided to attend schools that aren't in Illinois, according to the data. That figure has climbed from about 46 percent in 2016 and 45 percent in 2015.
In 2002, the number of college-bound Illinois high school students who chose out-of-state, four-year colleges was at 29 percent.
"The outmigration trend continues to increase, and that means we're not only losing students to out-of-state colleges and universities, we're likely losing them to other states for good," said Nyle Robinson, the state board's interim executive director. "We want to educate our state's students and see them flourish in jobs here in the Land of Lincoln."
The state's schools have struggled for years to compete with other institutions elsewhere in the Midwest, which offer certain scholarships and discounted tuition packages
Two-thirds of Illinois students choosing four-year colleges end up in Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin, according to the data.
States outside the region have also gained a foothold in recruiting Illinois students.
California, Georgia, Mississippi, Nebraska and Utah have reported double-digit percent increases in the number of Illinois public high school graduates enrolling in their schools since 2015.
Illinois officials have ramped up efforts to keep students in the state over the past year. Former Gov. Bruce Rauner approved a bill in August that launched the Aim High program, which gave $25 million to the state's 12 public universities for merit-based scholarships.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker has proposed increasing the program's funding by $10 million next year.