CHICAGO, December 1, 2021 —As higher education systems across the country explore the critical levers for reversing racial and socioeconomic disparities in college completion, Illinois took an historic step in improving racial equity in attainment with the passage of the Developmental Education Reform Act (DERA) signed into law this March. The act came as part of the HB2170 education pillar of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ 2020 policy agenda aimed at reversing centuries of systemic racism in education, from birth to career.

Designed to reform the current system of developmental education that has cost thousands of Illinois students time and money or derailed their college plans altogether, DERA takes two key steps. It requires community colleges to use a multiple measures approach to determining whether a student should be placed into developmental education. It also requires all public higher education institutions to implement evidence-based developmental education models that maximize a student’s likelihood of completing their gateway courses within two academic semesters.

Right now, nearly half of all full-time freshmen who enroll in an Illinois community college are placed in at least one developmental education course before they can even begin to take credit-bearing courses that will count toward their degree. These courses are designed to develop the reading, writing, or math skills of students who institutions deem—usually through standardized tests—as underprepared for college-level courses. Few students who begin in these courses are able to progress successfully into their introductory courses and, here and Illinois, only 14% of students who are placed into developmental education will graduate. This issue is particularly acute for Black students, 7 out of 10 of whom are placed in developmental education upon enrolling at a community college.

This fall, the Partnership for College Completion (PCC) was pleased to be awarded a $255,000 grant from Ascendium Education Group in partnership with the state’s community college governing body, the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), in supporting the implementation of DERA providing resources to institutions across the state to make the changes it requires. The grant is focused on supporting institutions that are interested in implementing a specific type of evidence-based developmental education model – corequisite models of support, which place students into credit bearing courses with additional, differentiated supports that help students succeed.

“Illinois Community Colleges are committed to creating an equitable path to economic prosperity. No matter who you are or where you live, community colleges are a valuable educational resource for anyone in Illinois,” said ICCB Executive Director Brian Durham. “The ICCB is excited to join the Partnership in building upon successful models to best assist students who come into community colleges unprepared for college-level work without adding additional costs and barriers to success.”

With support from the Ascendium grant, PCC will work with ICCB and faculty across the state to design and manage a set of activities that are designed to support institutions as they develop their DERA implementation plans. Colleges are required to submit their plans for implementing their reforms to ICCB by May 1, 2022. As part of the grant, an external evaluator will be hired to review all institutional plans and provide a summary and analysis to the public.

“Significant movement toward equity in our state’s higher education system cannot happen without a reenvisioning of developmental education, and this collaboration marks a critical step in that direction,” said PCC Executive Director Lisa Castillo Richmond. “We feel privileged to support colleges and universities in building their plans to address this longstanding barrier to college progression and completion, which has affected students in all of our colleges and universities, most especially Black community college students in Illinois.”

For more information, email PCC Senior Communications Manager Bravetta Hassell at


About the Partnership for College Completion

The Partnership for College Completion (PCC) champions policies, practices and systems that increase college completion and eliminate degree completion disparities for low-income, first generation, and students of color in Illinois – particularly Black and Latinx students.

About Ascendium Education Group Ascendium Education Group is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to helping people reach the education and career goals that matter to them. Ascendium invests in initiatives designed to increase the number of students from low-income backgrounds who complete postsecondary degrees, certificates and workforce training programs, with an emphasis on first-generation students, incarcerated adults, rural community members, students of color and veterans. Ascendium’s work identifies, validates and expands best practices to promote large-scale change at the institutional, system and state levels, with the intention of elevating opportunity for all. For more information, visit