NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — According to Governor JB Pritzker, 70% of students leave Illinois for better educational opportunities and stay out of state. He, however, has a goal in mind to change that.

“We were losing our youngest people to other state universities because we weren’t providing enough students with scholarships or providing a large enough reward,” said Gov. Pritzker.

At the Governor’s State of the State address on Wednesday, one of the main focuses was higher education.

Gov. Pritzker aims to raise the state’s budget by millions of dollars to invest in state and community colleges. He also would like to invest $100 million in MAP (monetary award program) grants, which don’t need to be repaid. This will allow more access to higher education for those with lower incomes.

“With a $100 million increase in MAP, we can make history together,” said Gov. Pritzker. “With Pell Grants, virtually everyone at or below the median income in Illinois can go to community college tuition free.”

Colleges in Central Illinois reacted to the possible increase in funding and are excited that the state is focusing on higher education.

“We have thousands of students every year that receive MAP grant funding, students that have recognized financial need, and that is really a major help in them being able to fulfill their educational goals,” said Eric Jome, the director of media relations at Illinois State University.

Jome explained that an increase in funding would mean more affordable education for those who choose to get it. The same also goes for Heartland Community College in Normal.

“More money towards community colleges and the community college system in Illinois is basically trying to put more money into the investment of a future workforce,” said Asst. to the President for Public Information, Steve Fast.

Fast said about 75% of their student body utilizes financial aid to attend school. An increase in MAP grants, he said, can only help those who want to go to college for free or for a greatly reduced price.

The budget for the FY24 has not been passed, so these are solely recommendations for next year’s budget, however, these additions would mean the possibility of free community college, as well as MAP grants for everyone who needs them.