By Christian Perry, Director of Policy and Advocacy 

Allow me to introduce myself as the newly appointed Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Partnership. Justice and equity have been the guiding principles throughout my career, and I have personally experienced the transformative impact obtaining a college degree can have. I firmly believe that every student who aspires to higher education should have equal and fair access to a quality learning experience. Joining this team at this pivotal moment in higher education is a privilege and I am eager to apply my diverse skillset to further enhance the impactful initiatives already in progress at the Partnership.

In May, the Illinois legislature successfully concluded its FY24 legislative session, achieving significant victories in promoting equity within higher education. At PCC, we are immensely grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with a dedicated network of advocates and policymakers as we continue our work to make Illinois the most inclusive and fair destination in the nation for pursuing a college education. This year’s achievements and progress further reinforce our commitment to fostering an environment of equal opportunities and access for all students. 

Here’s a look at some of the highlights from this session of influential legislative bills aimed at revolutionizing access to higher education for current and upcoming Illinois students. These important bills have successfully passed through the necessary legislative channels and await the Governor’s signature.

FY24 Budget (SB250): The General Assembly approved an operating and capital budget for FY24, which appropriates more than $100B in funds, including $50.6B in general revenue funds and $4B in new capital appropriations. This marks the fifth consecutive year in which the General Assembly and the Governor have agreed on a balanced budget. However, it is worth mentioning that the spending plan did not receive any support from the Republican members of the Assembly. (Public Act 103-6)

  • Education Budget: The PCC applauds the state legislature for making tremendous strides in supporting college students this legislative session by committing an additional $100M to the Monetary Award Program (MAP) for FY24, which will ensure that state aid covers a more significant percentage of tuition and fees for low-income students. In addition to the increase in MAP, the legislature also approved a historic 7% increase in institutional funding for our state’s universities, amounting to a total $100M increase in funding for public universities ($80.5 million) and community colleges ($19.4 million) this year alone, continuing to demonstrate this legislature’s and Administration’s renewed commitment to Illinois higher education after decades of disinvestment.  
  • K-12 received increased funding of $45M to launch a teacher vacancy pilot program; $1.6M for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program; $250M for the Smart Start Illinois program to help stabilize the childcare workforce and expand early intervention programs. The increased funding also established the “iGrow Tech Scholarship Program” to provide higher education financial assistance to STEM graduates that agree to live and work in Illinois after graduation for an agreed-upon period—a $2 million appropriation. 

Higher Education Bills

HB2898: PCC initiated and saw to the successful passage of the MAP Refund Fund. It requires for-profit colleges with a final judgment or determination against them for operating with unfair or deceptive practices to reimburse the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) for the MAP funding they received during the period of their deceptive practices. The bill passed both chambers and is going to the Governor’s desk for action.

HB3759: Illinois public universities will now have access to ISBE’s student profile data. Under current law, ISBE must annually assess schools that maintain grades 10-12 at most three times on English language arts and mathematics. ISBE is required to collect student profile information based on the annual assessments given to a student and provide access to this information to official recruiting representatives of the armed forces of Illinois and the US to inform students of educational and career opportunities. 

HR219: The IL House adopted resolution 219, which encourages Illinois’ institutions of higher education to embrace the neurodiversity paradigm. It recommends adopting a statement of inclusivity of neurodivergent individuals that appreciates and embraces the fact that every student is different and should be encouraged to reach their full potential.

SB2288: Community college students in Illinois would be assured that class credits earned related to their chosen major in certain fields of study will be transferable to all public colleges and universities in the state. This bill received unanimous support in both the House and Senate in March. Previously, Illinois’ four-year institutions had the discretion to determine whether to accept community college course credits as direct equivalents to their own required classes within a transfer student’s declared major. Should a university deem a community college class not equivalent, the earned credits would only fulfill elective hour requirements, necessitating the student to retake a similar course at the university. PCC applauds the passage of this bill, led by the Illinois Community College Board, recognizing its importance as one critical piece of transfer reform in the state. 

HB301: The AIM HIGH merit-based grant pilot program passed both chambers to become permanent. The legislation states that public universities should allow qualified full-time undergraduate students to apply for AIM HIGH grants. University administrators could also allow eligible part-time undergraduate students to use it as they enroll in their final semester. This legislation considers inequitable funding of institutions by loosening matching requirements for universities with more significant percentages of Pell students.

  • A school that averages 49% or more of students receiving a Pell Grant over the prior three academic years shall match 35% of the funds given in an academic year. Previously 20%. 
  •  A school that averages less than 49% of students receiving a Pell Grant over the prior three academic years shall match 70% of the funds given in an academic year. Previously, 60%. 

HB 3648 creates the Higher Education in Prison Act. This bill requires the Department of Corrections (IDOC), on or before September 1 of the year following this bill’s passage, to collect data and release a report on its institutions and facilities relating to higher education. Currently, there is no systematic data on higher education programs operating in Illinois prisons, and this bill ensures greater transparency around access and outcomes for incarcerated students. 

SB 1558: amends the Public Community College Act by establishing a direct support professional training program. Direct Support Professionals work directly with individuals who have intellectual or developmental disabilities. Day-to-day they assist individuals with various daily living activities like bathing, eating, administering medications, hygiene, and grooming. By July 1, 2025, the State Board shall submit recommendations for a model program of study for credit incorporating the training necessary to serve as a direct support professional to the Department of Human Services.

In total, the General Assembly passed 565 bills this legislative session that will be sent to the Governor’s desk. The legislature has 30 days to present a bill to the Governor, and the Governor has 60 days after receiving the bill to sign, veto, or issue an amendatory veto. To date, Governor Pritzker has vetoed only a few bills during his tenure. The veto session will occur from October 24-26 and November 7-9, 2023.

We look forward to the Governor’s support of these bills, as they have the potential to reshape the landscape of higher education in Illinois. By prioritizing equity and access, we can create a future where every student who aspires to higher education has an equal and just opportunity to pursue a quality learning experience.

I would like to express my gratitude for your continued support and partnership in our collective mission. Together, we can impact students’ lives and ensure a brighter future for our great state.