Students voice opinions on current education system


Jason Howell

Grace Pai, the outreach fellow for NextGen Illinois, discusses issues and solutions that young people in Illinois face on Tuesday in the Phipps Lecture Hall.

Roberto Hodge, Multicultural Editor

Students from all types of political backgrounds came together in the Phipps Lecture Hall eager to express their thoughts on the current political situation in Illinois Tuesday.

Hosted by the Political Science Association, Grace Pai, an outreach fellow from the Roosevelt Institution lead the caucus talking about NextGen Illinois, which is geared toward dealing with issues affecting those living within Illinois—especially the younger generation.

NextGen Illinois is a new state-based program created by the Roosevelt Institution and Young Invincibles designed to allow young Illinoisans a chance to speak out about what political issues and changes they wish to see within the state.

The organization’s goal is to create a “Young Peoples” policy allowing those of the younger generation to have a say about what goes on in Illinois.

“We’ve seen elected officials not listen to us,” Pai said. “Young people don’t often get asked about policy solutions.”

Pai started the discussion asking everyone in the crowd how the government has affected them in any sort of way. A vast majority of the audience, consisting mostly of students said student loans and financial aid are very real issues for younger people.

“The first step is talking about all of the problems and solutions,” Pai said.

Currently, the average amount of student debt within Illinois is $28,028, according to With the national average being one trillion, according to the Forbes website.

Public Policy is one of the terms Pai brought to the crowd’s attention. Many of the students without directly expressing it said pubic policy was all about decision making, laws, taxes and budget, which are all ways of governing.

A majority of the students agreed education was one of the top issues facing the state as well as a lack of funding towards its educational incentive.

Illinois’ current projected total budget cut for the 2015 fiscal year is $2.5 million according to the official Illinois budget website.

Others mentioned the aspect of the state’s Common Core curriculum. Many expressed their disapproval of the current system. Common Core is an initiative 43 states agreed upon entailing specific courses for students K-12 to ensure success in their two or four-year institutions.

Condia Smith, a senior physics major, said standardized testing is also one of the state’s downfalls, as it focuses so heavily on the matter.

“If I can read why does it matter how fast? Why are you comparing me to someone else,” Smith said.

Smith believes the reason the state has had such a bad management issue is because education is not one of the main points. Some students agreed better leadership within Illinois could be a possible solution to fixing the issues within the state.

One group of students explained funding was the root cause of all the issues Illinois is facing and how the state distributes the funds unevenly. They agreed with Smith that education should be the top priority.

Aside from education and funding, all of the members of the audience circled around one word describing Illinois—corruption. All came to a consensus that the state is the most corrupt within the union.

At least four Illinois governors have served time behind bars.

Matthew Jacobs, a senior political science, major said he believes many of the state officials could not care less what happens within the state since they do not see it as their issue.

“Hey, that’s my grandkids’ problem,” Jacobs said.

Pai said those in the younger generation need to know these issues affect not only adults, but young adults as well. She said those who are at the top making the decisions are often not thinking about the younger generation, which is where NextGen IL can step in.

The organization will be able to start a conversation about what should be changed and how they can go about making that change, Pai said.

“We’re advocating for ourselves because other people aren’t advocating for us,” Pai said.

Roberto Hodge can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]