Illinois Strives to Expand Access to Higher Education with New Laws | New

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(WSIL) – Several new laws in Illinois aim to expand access to higher education, increasing equity in education.

The bills increase the resources available to students and build on efforts to expand equitable access to public universities and community colleges.

Benefit Navigators

House Bill 4201 helps state university and community college students access benefits through “benefit navigators.” Each institution is responsible for designating a benefits navigator to assist students in researching and applying to any federal, state, or local program that provides assistance or benefits for which they are eligible. HB 4201 is effective January 1, 2023.

Benefits Navigators will participate in a consortium to share and develop best practices in helping students obtain the benefits and assistance needed to achieve their educational goals. The public university consortium will be overseen by the Illinois Council on Higher Education, and the Illinois Community College Board will oversee the community college consortium.

Illinois Higher Education Savings Program

Senate Bill 3991 amends the Illinois Higher Education Savings Program, also known as the Children’s Savings Program, which was created to start every baby born or adopted in Illinois with a deposit of $50 college savings in Treasurer’s 529 fund. This legislation allows the State Treasurer to increase the amount of the deposit for children from financially insecure households if funds are available. SB 3991 is effective January 1, 2023.

The Illinois Higher Education Savings Program, also known as the Illinois Children’s Savings Account Program, was first established in 2019 and received seed funding from $2.5 million in the fiscal year 2023 budget (PA 102-698). Through this program, all children born or adopted in Illinois on or after January 1, 2023 will have access to a 529 College Savings account with a starting deposit of $50.

House Bill 5464 requires state public universities and community colleges to develop and implement equity plans and practices to increase student loan access, retention, completion, and repayment rates for students from minorities, rural students, mature students, women and people with disabilities who are traditionally underrepresented in education programs and activities.

The Illinois Council on Higher Education (IBHE), in conjunction with the Illinois Community College Board, will guide the implementation of the new equity plans. The bill also allows the IBHE to request financial reports from private universities, private companies and vocational schools, if necessary, to help institutions stay on a solid financial footing. HB 5464 is effective immediately.

HB 5464 also requires all public and private post-secondary institutions to report student data to ensure that the IBHE has a complete picture of students in the state and to ensure progress is made toward equity in matter of education.

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