• FEATURED REPORT: Unequal Opportunity in Illinois: A Look at Who Graduates College and Why It Matters

    FEATURED REPORT: Unequal Opportunity in Illinois: A Look at Who Graduates College and Why It Matters

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The Partnership for College Completion is a new nonprofit organization launched to catalyze and champion policies, systems and practices that ensure all students in and around Chicago - particularly low-income, first-generation students - graduate from college and achieve their career aspirations

SAT's Adversity Index and the limitations of standardized tests in assessing students potential for college success

The College Board, which markets and sells the SAT, announced last week that it will release an "adversity index" that it has been testing for the past several years, to all colleges by 2020. This index aims to put students' academic achievements into the context of where they lived and attended high school. This measure of relative advantage or disadvantage will be available to admissions counselors at the colleges to which students apply, though not to students themselves. This new measure, while well intended, highlights the limitations of standardized tests in assessing students potential for college success.

In promoting the new measure, the College Board admits that a standardized test cannot fully gauge a student's potential and that in admission decisions, context matters. The stated goal of the "disadvantage level" is to help colleges identify resourceful students who have persevered in the face of adversity. Other than one example, however, the College Board has not detailed how the score should be used to contextualize SAT scores to improve equity in admissions decisions.

Moreover, it is unclear how the adversity score could correct either the deeper issues underlying how college admissions are affected by the adversity they seek to identify, or even the immediate issues that use of this test has created. This new measure, like the use of the SAT in scholarship and remediation decisions, could also have unintended consequences that negatively affect the students it claims to help.

Many studies show that the SAT is not as predictive of college performance as high school GPA, and that standardized test scores more closely correlate to family income and parents' education levels. For example, one study shows a 400-point gap between the highest and lowest-income test-takers. Large racial gaps also persist -- In Illinois, black and Latino students averaged 924 and 969 composite scores, respectively, compared to 1,113 for whites and 1,202 for Asian test takers. Drawing on these disparities, critics of the SAT have long argued that the test reflects and exacerbates racial and socioeconomic inequities. By leaning in on the adversity score, the College Board seems to agree. So, it raises the question: if a college really wants to bring equity in admissions across the diversity of postsecondary institutions, and measures like high school GPA are more predictive of college performance and graduation, why use the SAT at all?

Of course, the College Board would not recommend discontinuing use of the SAT, which added more than 130,000 Illinois test takers in scaling last year. However that idea is gaining traction, as a growing number of institutions are implementing test-optional admissions. This practice was recently adopted by the University of Chicago, for example, showing that this practice can be viable for institutions of any selectivity level. Early results from nearly 30 colleges show that moving away from standardized tests like the SAT can de-emphasize measures that correlate strongly with wealth and race, giving low-income students and students of color more access to institutions that lead to greater economic opportunity.

By including adversity scores along with test results, the College Board is essentially acknowledging the SAT's role in perpetuating inequity in college admissions, but it passes responsibility for actual change on to colleges and universities. Institutions should seize this opportunity to deemphasize standardized tests altogether in favor of measures, like high school GPA, which are more predictive and can increase access and equity in college admissions decisions.

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Prioritizing Equity in Postsecondary Education for Chicago’s Students

To: Mayor-Elect Lori Lightfoot
Re: Prioritizing Equity in Postsecondary Education for Chicago's Students

Who We Are
The Partnership for College Completion (PCC) is a non-profit organization aimed at eliminating state and institutional achievement gaps in college degree completion for low-income and first generation students and students of color in the seven-county region in and surrounding Chicago by 2025.

Policy Recommendations to Help Close College Achievement Gaps

Governance and Finance

  • Establish a community college equity council and taskforce on funding and partnerships
  • Maintain a diverse and equity-minded Board for City Colleges of Chicago (CCC)
  • Advocate for state-level funding formula change

Expand CPS institutional framework for addressing inequity to CCC
Similar to the equity council and ensuing policy statement that the Mayor-elect's campaign outlined for CPS, a community college equity council could provide crucial guidance for the direction of City Colleges of Chicago (CCC). Further, to secure additional resources and partnerships needed for our students, the Mayor's Office should regularly convene a funding and partnerships taskforce of community college representatives, students, non-profit advocacy organizations, and members of Chicago's business and philanthropic communities.

Diverse and equity-minded CCC Board of Trustees
CCC serves all of the City and much of the State's public 2-year students, many of whom are low-income and more than 70% of whom are Black or Latino, and the current board is relatively representative of its student population. New members must continue to reflect the diversity of CCC's campuses and have a strong understanding of how to best serve a diverse student body.

Advocate for state-level funding formula change
The current funding formula for community colleges does not adequately factor in equity and requires an additional $13 million in funding irrespective of formula just to achieve its baseline level. For CCC to succeed, it needs for Illinois to have a more equitable, sustainable, and evidence-driven community college funding formula. The Mayor's Office, perhaps through the aforementioned taskforce, should make recommendations to the General Assembly and Governor's Office about funding formula changes that bring equitable funding to CCC.

Human Capital

Retain CCC Chancellor Juan Salgado and CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson
In their short time leading Chicago's education systems, both CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson and CCC Chancellor Juan Salgado have championed initiatives aimed at improving equity and transparency and have been laser-focused on improving student outcomes at every stage of the education pipeline. Retaining and supporting Chicago's equity-minded leaders, and their initiatives, is a critical first step to maintaining momentum towards closing Chicago's equity gaps in high school and college completion.

Student Supports

  • Make scaling co-requisite remediation a top priority for CCC
  • Reevaluate Star Scholarship program criteria
  • Scale transitional math implementation

Make scaling co-requisite remediation an immediate, top priority for CCC
Developmental education, or remediation, is one of the greatest college completion barriers and equity issues facing Chicago. Developmental education classes costs students time and money and do not count toward degree completion. Black and Latino students are disproportionately represented in developmental courses, and of those who enroll in developmental coursework, only 9% of Black students and 16% of Latino students will graduate, compared to 25% of their White peers. About 12,000 City Colleges students were placed into developmental education in FY17, and fewer advanced to take a college-level class (33%) than decided not to come back the next year (51%). Co-requisite remediation is a method of development education that doubles or triples rates of students passing college-level courses by enabling them to take credit-bearing courses as soon as they get to college, while providing them with in-time support. City Colleges can implement at scale, and in doing so help thousands more students persist, and ultimately transfer or graduate from CCC, but to do so, reform must be a clear, high priority.

Reevaluate STAR Scholarship criteria for equity
The Star Scholarship is a driving force behind the improved outcomes and enrollment stability at CCC. More importantly, it offers college access and opportunity to our most under-served and under-resourced student groups. This opportunity should not be limited to students who have achieved a 3.0 and a certain threshold on standardized tests. Expanding Star scholarships will increase enrollment at CCC and ultimately improve the pipeline that runs from CPS graduation to economic opportunity in Chicago.

Scale transitional math implementation
Every year, nearly 46% of Illinois high school graduates and 61% of CPS students who enroll in community college in the state are placed into developmental education. In 2016, Governor Rauner signed the Postsecondary Workforce and Readiness (PWR) Act, designed to bridge K-12 and postsecondary institutions, including four strategies aimed at helping students become college and career ready. One such strategy is transitional math instruction, which empowers high schools and community colleges to enter into a partnership to help high school students with math readiness needs. If successfully implemented, transitional math will decrease the number of Illinois' high school graduates who are placed in remediation and improve college-level course pass rates. So far about a dozen schools are already implementing transitional math, and more are looking into expanding this initiative. For the City to position itself as a leader in college readiness, scaling transitional math and English within CPS and at charter schools must be a priority that the new administration drives.

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Illinois Equity in Attainment: Member Spotlight

Meet Dr. Lisa Petrov, Dominican University

What is your role at Dominican University?
Right now I am the Title V Project Director. Our project is "Strengthening Advising, Teacher Education and Our HSI Identity." Normally I am faculty in Spanish, and I teach a freshman seminar. I arrived at Dominican in 2008, just at the cusp of it becoming eligible for Department of Education HSI status. Over the years I've had the honor of working with many of our Latinx students closely, both in and outside of the classroom. I've seen them accomplish amazing things and I have continuously been inspired by their grit and resilience.

How did your college and universities support your success in earning your degrees?
My journey of success in attaining a BA at Oberlin College, an MA in Latin American Studies from Tulane University, and an MA and PhD in Spanish from UW-Madison (specializing in colonial literature) was a long and circuitous one. I arrived at Oberlin at a complete loss for what to do; I had thought I was headed for a medical career while at the Bronx HS of Science; but a summer volunteering in a hospital made clear that I was not suited to the field. I opted for a Spanish major because I wanted to travel, and there are so many Spanish-speaking countries from which to choose! Oberlin helped me succeed by not getting in my way and being a place where radicals are ordinary. However, due to a disastrous first semester freshman year, after four years I left Oberlin eight credits short of the total I needed to graduate! It took me three years to have a job with a schedule that allowed me to take classes. I finally completed my credit hour obligations, thanks to Hunter College (CUNY). I did not return to school for my graduate education until I knew what I wanted to do professionally. Teaching immigrant HS students new to NYC put me on the education path; simultaneously a side gig translating in Guatemala opened the Latin American world to me. Together they led me to Tulane and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The story gets too long from here! Suffice it to say, it was a journey with the occasional detour and roadblock.

What excites you about equity work at your institution?
Everything excites me about equity work at Dominican. Part of our university mission is to actively participate in the creation of a more just and humane world. I have taken it to heart and made it my mission to do everything I can to work on my small corner of higher education. In doing equity work at DU I get excited to see students succeed who otherwise might not. When I can be instrumental in getting them more access to better support systems (which actually provide them with what they need) I get super excited! It motivates me to see faculty colleagues learn to be more inclusive and culturally responsive practitioners. I get excited to be part of creating systems that help staff understand that equity is not treating everyone exactly the same! The simple act of educating folks to the important differences between equality and equity is exciting to me.

In your role, how do you impact equitable outcomes for your students?
Everything I do in my role as Title V Project Director should impact equitable outcomes for students at Dominican—so I keep that foremost in my mind as I make decisions about how to expend federal funds ($550K/year) and best implement our project to meet the objectives of each part (many of which are precisely to eliminate equity gaps). Title V funding for HSI development is about strengthening the institution and enabling it to better serve all of its students, but especially its low-income and Hispanic students. Dominican's Latinx students experience equity gaps compared to white students; our African American students suffer the most serious equity gaps. Half of all of our students are Pell grant eligible; but not all equity gaps are a result of scarce financial resources. One of my early decisions was to invest in faculty development and focus on increasing inclusive and culturally responsive practices in undergraduate classes. To me it seemed clear that all students would benefit from redesigned gateway courses across the university. The grant sponsored a Faculty Learning Community that is just wrapping up from last summer, with faculty participants from three of our four schools. Recently a participating science professor said to me that his teaching has been forever changed by the process. I want to leverage him, and the others who also saw positive results in their students' academic performance in the fall 2018 class they redesigned, to bring even more faculty on board. All this should positively impact equitable outcomes for students as more faculty renew, refresh and share with colleagues their more inclusive pedagogical practices. I am hoping to help promote a faculty culture of continuous improvement. As we say in Spanish, ojalá.

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2019 ILEA Spring Summit

On Thursday, April 11th, the first annual ILEA Spring Summit was held at the Northern Illinois University Naperville campus where over 180 staff, faculty and administrators from the ILEA cohort convened to hear from a number of institutions engaged in equity best practice work and engage and connect with one another. After a warm welcome from NIU President Dr. Lisa Freeman and NIU Trustee Veronica Herrero, attendees heard keynote presentations from Dr. Timothy Renick of Georgia State University and Dr. Frank Harris III, co-director of the Community College Equity Assessment Lab at San Diego State University. The morning and afternoon breakouts offered the opportunity to attend presentations on a number of strategy topics, including remediation reform, development of equity-minded professional development for faculty and staff, making the business case for student success and exploring institutional data. The full agenda for the ILEA Spring Summit, along with presentations and additional information provided by our presenters is currently available on the new ILEA portal website. Thank you to all our presenters and participants!
Click here to read the press about the summit.

Thank you to Moraine Valley Community College and Northeastern Illinois University who will be hosting the ILEA Summits in 2019-2020. Please save the date for the the Fall and Spring Summits!

  • Fall Summit, October 30, 2019 at Moraine Valley Community College
  • Spring Summit, March 31, 2020 at Northeastern Illinois University
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NSC Postsecondary Data Partnership

At the Spring Summit, it was announced that the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) Postsecondary Data Partnership will be the mechanism by which ILEA colleges and universities share data with the PCC as part of the Initiative. The Postsecondary Data Partnership is a new effort administered through NSC to help colleges and universities more efficiently gain a fuller picture of student momentum, progress and outcomes, meet various reporting requirement, and focus more of their resources on using their data to help students. As the data shared through the Postsecondary Data Partnerships mirrors reporting for ILEA, there will be no additional or supplemental data that institutions will be required to provide outside of NSC, as had been originally communicated to each team.

ILEA core team and Institutional Research colleagues have been sent detailed information and required documents for sign-off, which are also now available on the ILEA web portal and through the link below. For purposes of this partnership, the PCC is the 3rd party that each ILEA institution will give permission for the NSC to share disaggregated data with. Through the link below, you will find all of the forms that need to be reviewed and signed by each institution as the first step in this process, which include:

  1. Addendum to your current agreement with the NSC
  2. RT addendum if your college/university would like to participate in reverse transfer
  3. PDP 3rd Party authorizes NSC to share data with 3rd parties (name PCC)
  4. Exhibit B gives authorization to the 3rd parties (name PCC) to have access to the aggregated data dashboards; Exhibit C gives authorization to the 3rd parties (name PCC) for de-identified individual analysis ready file.

Download the Forms Here

Access PDP website
View video tutorials of PDP data dashboards

Please submit forms to Michelle Blackwell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with Lisa Castillo at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. on copy by June 1. While NSC recommends institutions submit 3-5 years of baseline data, PCC is encouraging ILEA institutions to submit at least 3 years of baseline data before the current reporting period closes in June. ILEA members who submit all signed forms and submit at least three years of historical data will be eligible to participate in a workshop with their data in the NSC dashboards at the 2019 ILEA Fall Summit. Additionally, those institutions will be entered into a drawing for a contribution (of at least $1,500) to your Student Emergency Fund. Please let your PCC Program Manager know if you plan to submit by the June 27th deadline or if you will submit in September.

A recording of the May 9th webinar about the details of this partnership will soon be available in the ILEA Portal.

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Illinois P-20 Council Equity Targets Webinar

In 2018, the Illinois Legislature passed SR 1647 and HR 1017, which direct the Illinois P-20 Council to acknowledge the significant disparities in college completion and postsecondary attainment rates for low-income and first generation college students and students of color across Illinois, and to update the State's postsecondary attainment goal "to include equity-focused targets aimed at closing institutional racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps." The P-20 Council directed its College and Career Readiness Committee to take on this task. The CCR Committee has since convened workgroups comprising of over 80 diverse representatives to develop a framework for the targets, analyze data on postsecondary enrollment and completion, identify approaches for stakeholder engagement, and explore institutional and statewide strategies to achieve the targets and close gaps across the groups of interest.

On Thursday, May 30th at 12pm, join Emily Rusca, Director of State Policy and Strategy at Education Systems Center who will be sharing updates from the Equity Targets Workgroup with ILEA institutions, as well as soliciting feedback from ILEA institutions on their insights as they have gone through the process of developing their Equity Plans. In particular, Education Systems Center hopes to understand what potential State policy windows or incentives might help reduce barriers and incentivize successful interventions at the institutional level in order to drive more equitable postsecondary attainment.

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College Student Success Gaps Persist. How Can Schools Close Them?

College Student Success Gaps Persist. How Can Schools Close Them?


April 17, 2019


This past week, leaders from community colleges and universities across northern Illinois met to brainstorm how to close college completion gaps based on race and income level.

Over 20 schools joined with the Partnership for College Completion (PCC) to launch the "Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative" last year. The schools share what works for them, and the PCC helps them orchestrate a plan unique to their schools and give them more information about the reality of the equity issue.

Lisa Castillo-Richmond is the Partnership's managing director. She says the gaps in Illinois mostly mirror those seen across the country. However, there are aspects of the issue where Illinois stands out.

"We are a significant outlier, I would say in terms of the gap between white students completing college degrees and African American students," she said. "In six years from a four-year institution, white students will graduate at a rate of 66 percent while African American students are graduating and about half that rate at 33 percent. And these gaps also exist across other races and ethnicities."

Organizers say it was essential for their initiative to be made up of a diverse group of schools -- two and four-year; big and small, public and private -- in order to show how gaps persisted everywhere.

"We really wanted to move away from the fallacy that says if you just get students into the right institution, everyone is graduating at these equitable and high rates, because we saw these gaps across all types of institutions," said Castillo-Richmond.

They all faced the same problem. For some, the disparity was six or eight percent. For others, it could exceed 10 or even 20 percent.

And why did they want to meet now? Across the state, in aggregate, the gaps weren't getting better and in some cases, they were widening.

The event was held at Northern Illinois University's Naperville campus. Lisa Freeman is the president of NIU.

"What we're saying is, it's really the responsibility of the university to meet the students that we accept where they are," Freeman said, "and to recognize that sometimes when a student doesn't succeed, it's not on them, it's actually on us, on the systems we've created that are serving our students poorly."

She says NIU was looking at their graduation equity rate even before they joined the initiative. But it's been easier to start acting on it since the end of the budget impasse.

"They weren't data that we were proud of," Freeman said. "We wanted to erase the gap that achieved for students who come from lower-income families, and for students of color. And we knew that to do that we needed to make a radical change."

For NIU, that's meant making sure students have support during their financial aid process, and raising awareness for academic resources. They've also seen through their PROMISE Scholars Program, how research can help connect students -- especially students of color -- to their campus and increase their odds of retention.

Confronting and analyzing equity data has been a key part of the plan at Wilbur-Wright College. They're a two-year school and one of the City Colleges of Chicago. David Potash is the president.

He said their plan has been in effect for a few years now. They've been deciphering where student success gaps are happening, so they can home in on the sources of the problem.

"That means that you got to look at the data all the time because you make one change and then there are consequences, some positive, some negative, you make another change," said Potash.

Wilbur-Wright's population is two-thirds Hispanic. One improvement area they found was with Hispanic female biology students. They saw those students were dropping out close to when they should have been finishing their programs. To help fix that, they assigned students farther along in the program to peer mentor students with less experience.

"And with a little bit of peer mentoring what we found, not a ton of work, the number of Latino females in the biology sequence increased when they were falling through at a relatively low billable rate," Potash said. "I mean, this is not rocket science, but it's looking at the data, finding people who are motivated together and care, and then you make a change."

Schools are also using technology to close the completion gap. The keynote speaker at the NIU-Naperville event was Tim Renick of Georgia State University. He spoke about his school's success with using an chatbot to answer common questions from incoming freshmen, anything from FAFSA to housing.

"We had students repeatedly tell us they asked the chat box questions they wouldn't have asked a human being," said Renick. "If you can't get your biological father to sign the FAFSA because you haven't seen him for the last two years, you don't necessarily want to go into some stranger's office and spill out your personal family history."

NIU President Freeman also has plans to implement a similar chatbot while they continue to teach their faculty and staff how to have conversations about equity.

"Nobody wants to inadvertently send a student the message that maybe this isn't for you," she said. "But people need to learn when they do those kinds of things unconsciously."

Aside from the individual school plans, the PCC is promoting policies at the state level to alleviate some of the pressure.

Currently, they're focusing on policies to overhaul the way higher education handles remedial courses, to get students college-ready.

Castillo-Richmond says with so many schools buying into the initiative there's still plenty colleges can do, even without extra aid coming from Springfield.

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PCC’s Response to Governor Pritzker’s First Budget Address

Increasing MAP by $50 Million: A Good Start to Supporting Low-Income Students

Today, the Governor pledged an additional $50 million for the state's Monetary Award Program (MAP), bringing total funding to around $450 million. This recommendation falls short of the State's higher education agencies' (IBHE, ICCB, as well as ISAC) requested $100 million increase; however, if part of a multi-year ramp up to ensuring all eligible students receive a MAP award, the additional $50 million appropriation is a significant first step toward reinvesting in Illinois students for whom this support determines if they can attend college at all.

In 2002, MAP covered 100% of tuition and fees for all eligible applicants. Today, more than 100,000 eligible applicants are denied funding each year, and for those lucky enough to receive it, MAP covers just 33% of tuition and fees. For the future of Illinois' students, workforce, and diverse economy, our first priority must be for all eligible students to be served without cutting funding levels. We project that a 65% increase (or $260 million increase) in current funding would both fund all applicants at current levels and at least keep up with increasing applications for the program. This additional $50 million proposed in the Governor's address today will serve about 15,000 more students -- a commendable first step, but one which will likely still leave more than 80,000 eligible applicants without funds.The Governor ran on a platform of a 50% increase in MAP funding, and we hope today's proposed 12.5% increase is the first step towards delivering on to that promise.

While we do not expect the Governor to fully reverse 15 years of underfunding in his first fiscal year, we applaud Governor Pritzker's commitment to continue, if not accelerate, the pace of ramping up this investment in order to improve our State's higher education outcomes.

Public Universities Get A Much Needed 5% Increase

Illinois' four-year universities have endured historic disinvestment over the last ten years -- they saw per-student funding cut by more than 50% before the budget crisis, and then suffered through defunding and uncertainty that affected students, staff, and the system as a whole. As appropriations declined, tuition increased, as universities were left with no options but to shift costs to their students. Now, the net cost for students of all income levels is the highest in the Midwest, and among the highest in the nation, and this hits the lowest income students the hardest. A 5% increase in public universities' budgets is a necessary start in allowing institutions to better serve all of their students.

The Increase in AIM HIGH Should Be Qualified, Or Reconsidered

AIM HIGH, Illinois' new merit-based financial aid program, is an attempt to slow the outmigration of Illinois' high school graduates leaving to attend college in other states. As it currently stands, however, the only need-based qualification is that a student's family income is no greater than six times the national poverty guideline -- about $150,000 for a family of four. There are no further mandates to equitably distribute this grant funding to students, and without such requirements, increasing funding for this program may come at the detriment of qualified students who most need it. Today, Governor Pritzker proposed an increase in state appropriations to this program.

One of the stipulations of AIM HIGH is that colleges must match all grants to students with their own institutional aid. Without requiring that grants go to low-income students, and assuming that an institution does not increase their institutional aid greatly after receiving AIM HIGH (which would be difficult given the aforementioned funding shortfalls), this matching provision could actually draw institutional aid away from low-income students who need them to attend these universities and direct it to better-resourced students who may have chosen to attend that university anyway. With enrollment numbers in precipitous decline, now is not the time to expand a grant program that may result in even fewer Illinois' low-income students being able to afford our public universities.

A more equitable path to driving Illinois' students to attend our public universities is to redirect the $10,000,000 increase to the more than 3,200 eligible students who will apply for MAP and not receive any funds this year.

More Commendable Recommendations

Governor Pritzker recommended a much-needed 5% increase to the State's community colleges, which serve even more of our state's low-income students, first generation college goers, Black and Latino students. The budget plans released by the Governor also include new funding for transitional math, which will increase college preparedness and cut down on developmental education, and for the P-20 council, which is working toward increasing Illinois' important initiative to have 60% of adults attain high-quality degrees by 2025. All of these recommendations are commendable. 

About:​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ The Partnership for College Completion is a new nonprofit organization launched to catalyze and champion policies, systems and practices that ensure all students in and around Chicago - particularly low-income, first generation students - graduate from college and achieve their career aspirations. Launching this regional organization is the culmination of a two-year planning process that was led by Forefront's College and Career Access, Persistence and Success (CCAPS) group and involved hundreds of stakeholders from across Chicago, the region and the nation. For more information: partnershipfcc.org

Mike Abrahamson
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Emily Goldman
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Illinois House Passes Resolution to Close College Racial, Economic Achievement Gaps and Increase Graduation Rates

Partnership for College Completion-sponsored resolution highlights urgency to prepare all students for demands of Illinois workforce 

November 26, 2018, Chicago, IL—The Illinois House has committed the state to closing the large racial and economic achievement gaps in college degree attainment by 2025. In adopting the resolution (HR1017), the House is supporting the state's decision to add equity targets to the State's public goal of increasing the percentage of Illinoisans with a college degree or credential to 60 percent by 2025. Building on resolution SR1647 that the Senate adopted in May, House legislators pledged to support college and university programs that show evidence of improving educational outcomes for low-income and first generation college students and students of color.

The resolution comes amidst research from the Partnership highlighting persistent gaps in achievement and underscoring the moral and economic imperative to take action through awareness, programs, and policy.In Illinois, 80 percent of employees say they need workers with some postsecondary education. But, only 34 percent of African American students who start at four-year institutions earn bachelor's degrees within six years – a rate 33 percentage points below that of their White peers. For Latinos, 49 percent are earning degrees, a still-wide gap of 17 percentage points. The completion gap between low-income and wealthier students is alarming: only 37 percent of low-income students graduate in six years while 75 percent of wealthier students do.

"This resolution recognizes that in order to reverse racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps we need bicameral support for bold solutions," said Kyle Westbrook, Executive Director of the Partnership. "With the House and Senate now aligned on goals, we look forward to continuing our work with the state to increase equity in higher education."

The Partnership promotes policies, systems and practices that ensure all students particularly low-income and first generation students graduate from college and achieve their career aspirations. The Partnership's initial focus is on colleges and universities in the seven-county northeastern Illinois area. The recently-passed House resolution follows a Partnership initiative with 25 colleges and universities, who recently announced their commitment to closing the equity gaps on their campuses by 2025. The specific, coordinated steps led by PCC in collaboration with national partners, is a major move to close racial and socioeconomic college degree completion gaps.

About: The Partnership for College Completion is a new nonprofit organization launched to catalyze and champion policies, systems and practices that ensure all students in and around Chicago - particularly low-income, first generation students - graduate from college and achieve their career aspirations. Launching this regional organization is the culmination of a two-year planning process that was led by Forefront's College and Career Access, Persistence and Success (CCAPS) group and involved hundreds of stakeholders from across Chicago, the region and the nation. For more information: partnershipfcc.org

Emily Goldman
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ILEA 2018 Summit


The PCC held our first Illinois Equity in Attainment (ILEA) Summit on November 13, bringing together leaders of 25 colleges and universities, national education experts, and students to discuss how programs can be developed, shared, and implemented to eliminate institutional achievement gaps in college degree completion for low-income, first generation, African-American and Latino students by 2025. More than 200 participants spent the day in workshops and breakout sessions discussing how to define equity, build community, explore how data can drive action, and set the path forward.

The Summit followed the ILEA launch on October 2, in which colleges representing 223,000 students, 37% of the Illinois undergraduate enrollment, pledged to eliminate longstanding institutional inequities in degree completion by race and income. The Partnership's initial primary area of focus is the seven-county region including and surrounding Chicago. The Summit represents a key piece of the Partnership's strategy: using our resources and convening power to support the ILEA institutions through sharing of data and best practices.

The tone of the day was set by US Sen. Dick Durbin, the first in his family to graduate from college, who went on to earn a law degree before becoming a US Senator. "What you are doing may be the most important thing for this country," he said. In other introductory remarks, City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Juan Salgado noted that every one of the seven colleges has "enthusiastically embraced" the ILEA initiative. He said that the quality of our success will depend on how far we can move students from where they began to realize their true potential.

Students from five ILEA institutions – Governors State, Malcolm X, National Louis, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Waubonsee Community College - reminded educators to acknowledge the challenges many students face, from college readiness to financial pressures to mental health concerns. They may also face racist or sexist remarks. The solutions: awareness, first, then having in place an array of support systems that ease the transition into and through college, together with the connections and networks to post-graduate career opportunities.

Throughout the Summit, participants examined personal experiences, assumptions, and biases – important steps to understand the hurdles that lie in front of students. But, to develop and apply policies and practices to close equity gaps at scale, the value of obtaining actionable data could not be understated. Participants in all sessions, and notably in a discussion facilitated by leaders from Achieving the Dream and the College of Lake County, spoke of gathering data that is descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and proscriptive. Data can be used, for example, by faculty to re-design courses or to create specific success strategies for each student that extend beyond college completion to securing sustainable employment.

Changing demographics in college enrollment and in the workplace make the work of the Partnership and ILEA especially timely. Said Lori Suddick, President of The College of Lake County: "There is an urgent need to address both the economic and moral imperative to this work. Joining the Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative supports CLC's focus on ensuring equity in access and success so every student completes."

The participation of the 25 colleges is a first in many regards. Each of the ILEA institutions will develop an equity plan that includes annual growth targets for low-income, first generation, African-American and Latino students. The Partnership will issue annual reports on progress toward these goals. The ILEA Summit marks one of the first steps, with colleges participating in a series of activities over the coming months, leading to draft equity plans by July and final plans in place by December 2019.

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Illinois universities pledge to end racial, income graduation gaps by 2025



16th Oct, 2018


The University has joined 24 other colleges and universities across Illinois to help more working-class students receive college degrees by 2025.

The project, named Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative and launched by nonprofit organization Partnership for College Completion, aims to eliminate racial and economic obstacles that prevent students from receiving college degrees within the typical two or four-year time frame.

Kyle Westbrook, executive director of Partnership for College Completion, said there are three phases in the Illinois Equity in Attainment initiative such as providing financial-aid plans for low-income students, making colleges and universities more welcoming for students from underrepresented backgrounds and working to ensure each degree path is clearly mapped out for students.

"UIUC has among the lowest gaps in degree completion along racial and socioeconomic lines in Illinois," Westbrook said in an email. "We hope that UIUC uses this collaboration to continue to focus efforts on increasing African-American student enrollment and ultimately completely closing the relatively modest gap that does exist in degree completion for UIUC."

The project revealed students of color from Illinois and who are first-generation students from working-class backgrounds have more difficulty getting associate's or bachelor's degrees in comparison to white, wealthier students.

According to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, 66 percent of Illinois students earn a bachelor's degree within six years while only 36 percent of African American students and 48 percent of Latino students graduate within the same time frame.

The University, DePaul University and the University of Illinois at Chicago are among the twenty-five schools in Illinois that have pledged to participate in this initiative.

"We're excited to see the great focus that Chancellor Jones is bringing to improving what are already great numbers for UIUC and look forward to continued leadership on issues of access and equity from our state's flagship institution," Westbrook said.

The University has already taken steps to allow students of lower socioeconomic status to achieve secondary education by granting free four-year tuition to admitted students from families making less than $61,000 a year, according to the Partnership for College Completion website. The ultimate goal is to end the graduation gap by 2025.

Kathy Martensen, the assistant provost for Educational Programs, said the University will be working directly with the project.

"Our team will be working with representatives from the ILEA in the coming months to define our institution-specific goals, opportunities, challenges and a path forward," she said. "The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is excited to be one of these 25 partners, especially since we are one of only two of the partner schools who would be considered to be located outside of the greater Chicagoland area, and we're looking forward to learning more and working with PCC on the ILEA initiative."

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WBEZ News - Illinois Equity in Attainment


October 9, 2018

WBEZ News - Illinois Equity in Attainment
Includes interview with our Managing Director, Lisa Castillo Richmond. 

WBEZ News - Illinois Equity in Attainment

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Initiative Aims To Close The State’s ‘Graduation Gap’




Twenty-five colleges around the state have signed on to a new initiative aimed at increasing graduation rates among students from underserved communities.

The nonprofit Partnership for College Completion's Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative asks schools to develop a plan to increase graduation rates among students who are low-income, first generation or students of color.

"College completion rates have been very stagnant for a long time," said Lisa Castillo Richmond, director of the Partnership for College Completion. "That graduation gap between racial and socio-economic groups has been persistent, and in some places increasing."

Illinois has the fourth largest college completion gap between African-American and White students in the country, according to a report released by PCC last year. The report also found that 33 percent of African-American students complete a bachelor's degree in six years or less compared to 66 percent of White students. Latino students have a degree completion rate of 48 percent, according to the research.

To help address these inequities, the two and four-year institutions that are participating in the new initiative will be asked to meet "annual growth targets" for students from traditionally underserved populations and come up with solutions to help eliminate barriers to college completion.

Northern Illinois University is one of the participating schools. NIU President Lisa Freeman said about half of the student population at the DeKalb campus falls into groups that are more likely to experience an achievement gap.

"There is no gap in talent within those groups," Freeman said, "but there is an achievement gap and that's because, we believe, of cultural, navigational, financial and in some cases academic barriers."

One of those financial challenges is the availability of grants from the Monetary Award Program, the primary form of tuition support in the state. Richmond Castillo said the program was once a model for other states, but that it hasn't been funded adequately since 2002.

"MAP covers about 40 percent of the students who need it in the state," Castillo Richmond said. "It doesn't cover all the tuition and fees for all of the types of institutions that our students are attending. So affordability continues to be a big challenge."

Castillo Richmond said they intentionally included a variety of two-year and four-year institutions in their cohort of 25 schools. Each will have to develop a plan that includes creative solutions for low-income students to help pay for their education, and reduce the amount of time it takes to obtain a degree. The plans must be put into place by 2019, with the overall goal of closing the graduation gap by 2025.

Story source: WILL

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Chicago-Area Universities Commit to Closing College Graduation Gaps



By Brandis Friedman

Black college students in Illinois are only half as likely as their white counterparts to earn a four-year college degree within a six-year time frame.

That research comes from a local education nonprofit that unveiled an ambitious plan Tuesday to get 25 colleges and universities in and around Chicago to close that gap in the next seven years.

In his Wednesday afternoon class, college senior Cristian Baeza is all smiles. In May, he'll be the first among his five siblings to graduate college.

"Unfortunately my two older brothers dropped out of college, so it's kind of like that pressure of me having to fulfill my parents dream," Baeza said. "The American dream for them was for us to get an education since they couldn't back home."

Baeza knows his brothers may have struggled with what many first-generation college students have faced.

"I think just in general, it's sometimes hard when you don't see someone teaching in a class that looks just like you, or finding a group of students on campus – a lot of students, for example, work full-time or have to babysit," he said. "It's not that they don't want to get involved on campus, they just don't have the time to do so."

And those struggles have meant lower graduation rates for black and Latino students, those who're low-income and the first in their families to attend college.

Here at University of Illinois at Chicago, the percentage of white students graduating within six years was 60 percent for students who started in the year 2011.

For Hispanic students, just 49 percent graduated within six years – and black students only graduated at a rate of 44 percent.

"We see this as nothing short of a crisis," said Kyle Westbrook. "Insofar as the number of students that are leaving our college campuses with debt and no degree is a significant hindrance to those students' economic prospects down the line."

Westbrook says it's a problem throughout Illinois.

"In the state of Illinois, 7 out of 10 white students will graduate from their four-year universities with six years. Five out of 10 Latino students will graduate within that same period, and only 3 out of 10 African-American students will graduate within six years," he said.

Westbrook heads the Partnership for College Completion, a nonprofit working to get universities to close that gap.

"This is our best chance, our last best chance for low-income students to interrupt cycles of poverty that will continue to hamper our region's economy if we don't actually address it and this group of colleges and universities, stepping up, as part of the Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative, are doing that," Westbrook said.

The just-launched initiative is an agreement between the Partnership for College Completion and 25 colleges and universities to close their respective graduation gaps by the year 2025.

UIC is on that list.

"It's an audacious goal. And it's a stretch goal," said UIC Chancellor Michael Amridis. "What we are all of us are going to gain out of this agreement, out of this partnership, is sharing common practices, understanding what the most recent research is, and hoping success."

Amridis says the university already does a lot to be sure its very diverse population of students graduate.

He puts the challenges in three main categories: financial aid, academic preparation, and a sense of belonging.

Something Baeza can certainly say he's found.

"I definitely do think that UIC is diverse and I tell people, I think that that's what's helped me, that I've found my group of friends, that I've found mentors," he said. "Finding those groups, and those people that are going to back you up throughout your time here at UIC."

Those who are addressing this problem agree. Ending the inequities in the college graduation rate in just seven years is a lofty goal.

"Even if an institution doesn't necessarily get there by 2025 … they can feel confident they're on the right road, and they're on the right path to closing those gaps," Westbrook said.

But at the very least, it's a place to start, by creating more graduates like Baeza.

More on this story

The Partnership for College Completion says the universities will spend the first year planning and sharing practices before implementing them to improve graduations rates.

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Illinois colleges, university work to help first-generation students graduate




Twenty-five Illinois colleges and universities are making an effort to improve the graduation rates for African American and Latino students.

Partnership for College Completion, a nonprofit that aims to provide more resources for first-generation college students, is bringing together the institutions to close the gap in college graduation rates. They are particularly focused on low income African-Americans and Latinos.

"African-American students and Latino students are graduating at significantly lower rates than white students and higher income students," said Kyle Westbrook, executive director of Partnership for College Completion.

Erik Flynn is the first in his Latino family to go to college. His goal is to graduate in 4 years, but Flynn knows navigating the college process is challenging when it's completely new.

"Unlike high school or grammar school, I really just can't go to my parents and ask for help, it's more understanding what the college resources are for me," said Flynn, a freshman at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says the gap is not unique to Illinois. Chairman Catherine Lhamon says it's a nationwide problem.

"We heard very serious concerns about a student's ability to actually make it through colleges and understand and know what it takes to seek and secure financial aid," said Lhamon.

Students need help with navigating financial aid, as well as with personal situations and changing majors.

Northern Illinois University is being more proactive with information and resources for students, NIU's president Lisa Freeman says more must be done.

"We need to have high tech solutions that allow us to look at students that would otherwise fall through the cracks," said Freeman.

NIU is among the 25 Illinois Universities and colleges committed to ending the racial and socio-economic graduation rate gap by 2025.

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‘College completion crisis’ spurs pledge to end racial, income grad gaps by 2025



Carlos Ballesteros

Patrick Birden-Didona graduated from DePaul University in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in secondary education.

The Belmont Cragin native was supposed to graduate in 2014 but ended up having to stay for another two semesters. That extra year cost him $25,000 in loans — and he believes DePaul is to blame.

"A big reason why I had to attend DePaul for five years instead of four was because of bad advising," Birden-Didona said. "Most kids had their parents help them navigate the college process. I didn't have that same parental support, and the university didn't do a good job in filling that gap."

Birden-Didona's experience isn't unique: Research shows working class, first-generation college students of color from Illinois have, on average, a much harder time getting their associate's or bachelor's degrees than their white, wealthier peers.

That is why DePaul and two dozen other colleges and universities in Chicago and across the state have teamed up to help get more working-class students, particularly those who are black and Latino, across the finish line.

The Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative is a new project from education non-profit Partnership for College Completion. It includes 25 of the region's public and private two- and four-year colleges and universities that have pledged to end racial and economic inequities in graduation rates by 2025. The aim is to remove barriers that help keep students from getting their associate's or bachelor's degrees in a timely manner.

The steps the schools will take include: providing financial-aid plans tailored to low-income students, making colleges and universities more welcoming for students from underrepresented backgrounds and working to ensure that each degree path is clearly mapped out so students can get the courses they need to maintain timely progress in pursuit of their degree.

Participating schools include the University of Illinois campuses in Chicago and Champaign-Urbana, National Louis University, College of Lake County, Joliet Junior College, Roosevelt University and the seven City Colleges of Chicago.

Lisa Castillo Richmond, managing director at the Partnership for College Completion, said the initiative was devised to tackle what's known in education circles as the "college completion crisis" among low-income black and Latino students.

"We've seen an increase in college enrollment among black and Latino students and low-income students over the last decade, but the graduation rate for these students remains stagnant," Richmond said. "We want to make sure there's support for these students beyond just getting them through the door."

Sixty percent of college students from Illinois graduate with an associate's in three years or bachelor's degree in six years, according to state data. But a student's race and family income are key factors in whether a student will be part of that 60 percent.

According to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, 66 percent of white students in the state graduate with a bachelor's degree in six years — twice the percentage of black students (36 percent) and ahead of the number of Latino students (48 percent) who do. Nearly 36 percent of whites get an associate's degree in three years, ahead of blacks (17 percent) and Latinos (24 percent).

Just 37 percent of low-income students from Illinois earn a bachelor's degree in six years — half the rate of middle- and upper-class students, according to data from the Illinois Students Assistance Commission analyzed by Advance Illinois, an education non-profit.

Nivine Megahed, president of National Louis University, where more than 70 percent of students come from low-income households, the initiative is indicative of a broader movement to provide a high-quality education for all who seek it without requiring students to break the bank.

"The entire region has to step up and push for equity among higher education because it represents economic and social mobility for those who need it the most," she said.

In August, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pledged four years of free tuition to admitted students who come from families with an income of less than $61,000 a year.

Birden-Didona, a social sciences teacher at Disney II Magnet Elementary School on the North Side, is eager to see if this initiative helps. He said while he "loved" his time at DePaul, he's wary of the school's commitment to guiding its working-class students of color throughout the entire college process.

"Is the [Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative] going to be a genuine effort to improve the lives of poor students or just a publicity stunt?" he asked. " … I guess we'll have to wait and see."

In a statement, DePaul said it offers "many resources" and "academic support services" and operates a Office of Multicultural Student Success to work with first-generation college students.

"DePaul is committed to the retention, persistence and graduation of all our students, and to eliminating the achievement gaps that exist for marginalized college students," the statement said. "As a collective result of our efforts, DePaul's retention and graduation rates are well above the national average and the outcomes for our first-generation and low-income students are on par with the rest of the student body."

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EDITORIAL: College enrollment is up at CPS, but graduating is a different story


Sun-Times Editorial Board

More students than ever are going on to college from Chicago Public Schools, but we haven't reached the end game yet.

More than two-thirds — 68.2 percent — of the Class of 2017 enrolled in a two- or four-year college by the spring following graduation, according to the latest district data. That's a significant increase from just five years ago, when college-going hovered at around 55 percent.

The numbers reflect a payoff from CPS efforts to better prepare kids for post-secondary education. CPS, for example, is offering more Advanced Placement classes and forging partnerships with outside groups that help support teens on the way to college.

And with more graduates now heading specifically to City Colleges of Chicago, give credit, too, to the Star Scholarship program. It provides free tuition and books to City Colleges, plus scholarships to participating four-year schools, to CPS graduates with a 3.0 GPA or higher.

All good news for teens, their families and Chicago, too. Our city benefits when more young people set their sights on higher education.

But there's a caveat to the good news: Black and Latino students lag behind as a whole, with only 57.7 percent of African-American high school graduates and 66.2 percent of Latino graduates enrolling in college.

Once enrolled, students of color also are less likely to reach the final milestone, college graduation. Some two dozen colleges in Chicago and the rest of Illinois pledged this week to do more to stem the "college completion crisis" for minority and low-income students, through the Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative.

We'll soon find out more on college-going and other measures of achievement in CPS. The University of Chicago Consortium on School Research is expected, perhaps next week, to release its annual report on educational attainment in the district. Last year's report included a stunning and sobering estimate: Just 18 percent of ninth-graders were expected to earn a college degree within the next 10 years.

We've got a long way to go to the end game.

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AIM HIGH Shouldn’t be Need-Blind

The AIM HIGH grant pilot program, Illinois' new merit-based financial aid program, intends to slow the exodus of Illinois' high school graduates leaving to attend college in other states. The University of Alabama and the University of Nebraska, for example, like other universities in neighboring states, are offering Illinois students attractive merit-based financial aid packages that make leaving home for college an enticing option.

Due to Illinois' continued disinvestment in higher education, the two-year budget impasse, and declining enrollment in many of the state's four-year institutions, our state universities have had to rely more heavily on tuition increases to cover costs. Combined with the decreasing purchasing power of the need-based grant Monetary Award Program (MAP), Illinois colleges and universities have not been able to match the financial aid packages offered by out-of-state schools.

To incentivize Illinois' students to attend college in-state, the Higher Education Working Group, Illinois' first bipartisan, bicameral legislative working group focused on higher education, introduced Senate Bill 2927. The bill, signed by Governor Rauner in August 2018, created the AIM HIGH grant pilot program, a $25 million merit-based matching grant available to Illinois public four-year institutions. Each state university will be eligible to receive a pool of state funds in an amount determined by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) based on how many Illinois' residents the university enrolled in the previous academic year.

The legislature provided some guidelines for grant eligibility. At a minimum, to be eligible for an AIM HIGH award, students must be an Illinois resident, file a FAFSA, have a household income of no greater than six times the national poverty guideline—approximately $150,000 for a family of four, meet a minimum GPA or admissions test score as determined by the university campus, and enroll full-time. Each university campus can add additional "reasonable" eligibility criteria.

While this infusion of new money into our higher education system is commendable, as pointed out by Eric Jensen, President of Illinois Wesleyan University, in his recent op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, "The problem with allocating more merit-based aid when fighting an enrollment crisis is that merit-based scholarships favor students who can afford college anyway." Since MAP has not kept pace with tuition increases, over 50% of MAP-eligible students who otherwise might enroll in college do not receive a MAP award and those who do, often still have a significant gap between what aid covers and their true college costs. As a result, many MAP-eligible students may not be getting the financial support they need to attend college.

Fortunately, AIM HIGH gives universities one tool with which to address out-migration while being mindful of the affordability crisis Illinois' low-income students and families are facing throughout the state. Since the grant program gives institutions the discretion to determine how AIM HIGH funds will be allocated among all eligible students on their campus, universities have the opportunity to prioritize access for the neediest students first. In addition to delegating scholarship funds amongst a racially diverse range of students, institutions should allocate the largest awards to students with the lowest Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). By filling in where MAP awards are falling short, or are absent altogether, the AIM HIGH grant program can be leveraged to increase enrollment and persistence for our state's low-income students, whose alternative may be debt, or in the worst cases, nowhere at all.

Emily Goldman
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Letter: Illinois higher ed needs a makeover. But first, it needs money.


Illinois' higher education could certainly use a "reinventing," as the Chicago Tribune's recent editorial calls for, but it also needs some reinvesting.

Since 2000, our high school graduates have increasingly moved out of state for college. And it's not just coincidence that our state's disinvestment in higher ed has been steady through administrations of both parties dating back to 2002.

We commend the University of Illinois for its bold investment in ensuring that there is a pathway into and through the state's flagship institute of higher education. However, too few of our state's public universities have the resources to be able to make such an offer, due to nearly two decades of funding cuts.

There is no doubt that in an enterprise as large as higher education in Illinois there is room for improved efficiency, and in every public agency we need to take a tough and open-minded look at ways to get the biggest bang for the taxpayer's buck. Possible consolidation of administrative functions and elimination of under-enrolled programs should be on the table, but we need to be mindful of what the impact would be on our students from low-income households who are especially reliant on our public universities.

The bottom line should be increasing opportunity by investing in our universities and the path to the middle class they represent, while being accountable for strong results and fiscal responsibility.

After all, when has disinvesting in education and limiting opportunity increased anything other than incarceration rates?

— Kyle Westbrook, executive director, The Partnership for College Completion

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Returning Students to Receive Priority Access to MAP Grants

Yesterday the Governor signed HB5020, giving eligible low-income college students who receive need-based state financial aid priority access to an award in the following year. Under this new bill, beginning with the 2020-21 academic school year, Monetary Award Program (MAP) applicants who received a MAP award the prior year and who complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by a pre-determined priority date, are guaranteed to receive a renewed grant. The bill has gained attention from the higher education community and college students alike, many calling it the "four-year MAP bill."

While HB5020 is an important step forward, true financial security will require a commitment by the state to fully fund need-based state aid to ensure that all eligible students, new and returning, can access and persist at any public college or university in the state. HB5020 will make it easier for returning students to secure MAP awards, but for the reasons that follow, a renewed grant is not guaranteed.

Here's what you need to know about HB5020:

  • Renewing applicants must complete their FAFSA by the priority deadline. The bill requires the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) to annually publish a deadline by which renewing applicants must complete their FAFSA to receive priority funding. While missing the priority deadline does not mean the applicant is ineligible for a renewed grant, renewal will depend on the availability of MAP funds at the time of FAFSA application.
  • Applicants must continue to meet eligibility requirements. To qualify for a renewed MAP grant, applicants must continue to meet eligibility requirements including demonstrated financial need as determined by each applicant's Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) and not being in default on any student loan.
  • First-time applicants might not receive an award.Until the state fully funds MAP to cover all eligible students, there is no guarantee an eligible student will receive a MAP award in year one, or any year thereafter. It's important for applicants to file a FAFSA early since MAP is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

HB5020 gives students and their families a sense of financial security and helps Illinois provide more competitive financial aid packages to keep students in the state and on-track to degree completion. However, it is important to understand the bill's provisions. More advocacy will be needed to ensure all eligible students receive a MAP award to cover the cost of college.

If you or your student will be attending college in academic year 2020-21, put October 1, 2019 in your calendar. This is the approximate date ISAC will be publishing the priority deadline for FAFSA submission for renewing applicants. And for first-time applicants, remember to apply early! If you have additional questions, please reference ISAC's HB5020 student Q&A here.

Emily Goldman
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