JB Pritzker, Governor, State of Illinois

ISAC Communiqué

Volume 30, Number 3C
March 2021

Messages sent to: Multiple Subscription Groups
  ISAC Communiqué

Welcome to the March 2021 electronic ISAC Communiqué, which is a quarterly compilation of e-Messages sent through ISAC's e-Messaging service throughout January, February and March.

The articles in this electronic Communiqué have been organized according to the Counselor Subscription groups to which the messages were distributed.

Questions?

Questions regarding information in this electronic Communiqué can be directed to School Services at 866.247.2172 or at ISAC.schoolservices@illinois.gov. On occasion, you may be directed to a specific contact person or area; when this occurs, we will provide the appropriate information in the individual article or message.


MULTIPLE SUBSCRIPTION GROUPS


FAFSA Simplification Webinar
Sent to Principals/Superintendents/Administrators, High School Counselors/Teachers, College Admission Counselors, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange High School Participants, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange College Participants, Community Organizations and Public Libraries on March 31, 2021.

Brought to You by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC)

As a result of recent federal legislation, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will be making changes to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). These changes will go into effect with the FAFSA scheduled to be released on October 1, 2022 for the 2023-2024 academic year. In response to these impending changes, ISAC's Professional Development staff will be offering a new FAFSA Simplification webinar to help counselors and college access professionals prepare.

FAFSA Simplification

This session will provide information on the legislation behind FAFSA simplification and explain some of the changes that will be taking place for the 2023-2024 FAFSA. The webinar will cover anticipated changes to the FAFSA, Federal Methodology, and the calculation for Pell grant eligibility. Other expected changes to Federal Student Aid, as described in the FUTURE Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, will also be addressed.

FAFSA Simplification webinars will be offered on the following dates and times:

  • Tuesday, April 6, 2021 – 1-2 p.m.*
  • Tuesday, April 20, 2021 – 11 a.m.-12 p.m.*

    *Central Time

Additional dates may be added as more information becomes available. For additional information, registration details, and information about this and other professional development opportunities, visit our website at www.isac.org/pd/webinars.

ISAC awards Continuing Education (CE) credits and Professional Development (PD) hours to session participants at a rate of one per contact hour. To earn these, it is necessary to attend the session in its entirety and complete an ISAC evaluation form. To receive PD hours, an additional ISBE evaluation form must be submitted, along with your Illinois Educator Identification Number (EIN), to the Professional Development staff at isac.outreachtraining@illinois.gov.

For questions about ISAC's professional development opportunities or webinar series, please contact the Professional Development staff at isac.outreachtraining@illinois.gov.


2021 Financial Aid Certification Series
Sent to Principals/Superintendents/Administrators, High School Counselors/Teachers, College Admission Counselors, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange High School Participants, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange College Participants, Community Organizations and Public Libraries on March 30, 2021.

Brought to You by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC)

Beginning with the 2020-21 academic year, state law now requires all Illinois public high school seniors to complete either the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) or the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid (Alternative Application) as a prerequisite to receiving a high school diploma.

To help support implementation of this mandate, the ISAC Professional Development staff will offer a Financial Aid Certification Webinar Series April 12th – 16th, 2021. This series of online webinars gives professionals a detailed understanding of the financial aid process. These sessions will be offered at no cost to counselors and college-access professionals.

Participants will have the opportunity to complete an online assessment after every webinar. Those who score an 80% or higher on the assessment will receive a certificate of completion (for each assessment passed) from ISAC via e-mail.

For registration details and information about other professional development opportunities, visit our website at www.isac.org/pd/webinars.

ISAC awards Continuing Education (CE) credits and Professional Development (PD) hours to session participants at a rate of one per contact hour. To earn these, it is necessary to attend the session in its entirety and complete an ISAC evaluation form. To receive PD hours, an additional ISBE evaluation form must be submitted, along with your Illinois Educator Identification Number (EIN), to the Professional Development staff at isac.outreachtraining@illinois.gov.

For questions about ISAC's professional development opportunities, please contact the Professional Development staff at isac.outreachtraining@illinois.gov.


Update: 2021-22 State Scholar Announcements
Sent to Principals/Superintendents/Administrators and High School Counselors/Teachers on March 16, 2021.

Unless otherwise noted, links in this message are to corresponding pages at the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) website (isac.org).

This message provides updated State Scholar Program (SSP) information, specifically regarding the processing schedule for 2021-22 State Scholar announcements – anticipated for mid-April – for students in the high school graduating class of 2021. High schools that have not already done so are strongly encouraged to submit sixth semester data as soon as possible, via either Option One (available now) or Option Two (available soon).

College Entrance Exam Scores Now Received

As indicated in a June 16, 2020 e-Message, the COVID-19 pandemic caused college entrance exams (ACT and SAT) that would normally have been administered during the spring of 2020 to be postponed until the fall. Due to the postponement of the entrance exams, the announcement of State Scholars was also delayed.

In addition to exams taken from August 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020, results from the postponed exams – including the July 2020 ACT exam, and the SAT exams administered on September 23, 2020, October 14, 2020, and October 27, 2020 – have now also been received by ISAC and will be considered for State Scholar determination.

Options to Submit Sixth Semester Data
Submit Data No Later than April 2, 2021

In order to ensure your students are considered when 2021-22 State Scholar determinations are made, be sure to submit all sixth semester data no later than Friday, April 2, 2021.

Sixth semester is defined as the third semester prior to graduation, which is typically the end of a student's junior year (excluding summer term). The following procedures remain in effect for this year's cycle:

  1. if a school ranks, unweighted rankings should be provided;
  2. if a school does not rank, unweighted grade point averages (GPAs) must be provided;
  3. weighted rankings and GPAs cannot be accepted; and,
  4. schools are required to submit data for the entire class and to include any applicable disqualification codes.

High schools may choose from two options when submitting the required sixth semester data: in batches via Excel spreadsheets (available now), or through the online process (available soon).

Caution: Because the processing of sixth semester data for 2021-22 State Scholars has been delayed, please make sure that the data you submit reflects the end of the third semester prior to graduation for students who are in the high school graduating class of 2021. Do not send data for current high school juniors (you will be notified at a later date when ISAC begins accepting sixth semester data for 2022-23 State Scholars).

Option One: Batches (via Excel Spreadsheets)Remains Available

  • Create an Excel spreadsheet with your students' sixth semester data.
  • When the Excel spreadsheet is ready to submit, log in to the GAP Access portal to access the SSP system, and then follow the on-screen prompts to upload your file to ISAC.
  • Once the file has been uploaded, the file validation process will begin.
    • The validation process will take several minutes (5 minutes minimum), so allow enough time and then click the "Refresh" button to check if the validation is complete.
    • After validation has completed, the file will have one of two statuses: "Validated" (no errors); or, "Validation Errors Found" (with errors).
      • If the file status is "Validated," no further action is required.
      • If the file status is "Validation Errors Found," the errors must be corrected before any students on the file can be considered for State Scholar designation. Instructions for correcting errors are provided in the SSP File Upload User Guide.

Option Two: Online ProcessSoon Available

  • ISAC anticipates that Option Two (the online process) will be available for use in the next few days. Be sure to regularly check the yellow highlighted box that appears on the "State Scholar Program: Search By School: Results" screen, which will announce once Option Two is available.
  • Step-by-step instructions for the online SSP system, including sample screen prints, are provided via the SSP Online Processing User Guide, which may be accessed via the GAP Access page.
  • An Illinois SSP Sixth Semester Academic Information Request form, which will be available once State Scholars have been announced, must be completed and submitted by the high school for any student who should be considered for SSP designation but does not appear on the online SSP system. The form may also be used to notify ISAC of issues that require exceptions processing (i.e., if duplicate student records appear on the online SSP system).

Future Updates

Watch for additional updates – including notification that 2021-22 State Scholars have been announced – via the standard communication methods (i.e., the Counselor Message Board, the State Scholar Program News section, and ISAC's e-Messaging service). Processing updates will also be communicated via the yellow highlighted box that appears on the "State Scholar Program: Search By School: Results" screen.


Don't Let Your Students Miss Out on Money for College!
Sent to Principals/Superintendents/Administrators, High School Counselors/Teachers, Community Organizations and Public Libraries on March 10, 2021.

Rock the FAFSA
PARTICIPATE IN THE STATEWIDE
ROCK THE FAFSA WEEK
MARCH 15-19

ISAC is pleased to partner with the Illinois State Board of Education and the Governor's Office in Rock the FAFSA Illinois Week, March 15-19.

The Illinois Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) Mandate requires that all high school seniors complete a financial aid application (either the FAFSA, or if eligible, the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid) as a prerequisite to receiving a high school diploma. Find out more at the Illinois FAFSA Mandate: Training and Support webpage.

We know that both schools and students are facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the pandemic. ISAC is here to support our schools in meeting the Mandate, and our students to help ensure they can access all the financial aid for which they might be eligible.

It's easy to participate in Rock the FAFSA Week and help your students on the path to college:

  1. Contact ISAC to set up one or more free online ISAC Financial Aid Application Completion Workshops during the week of March 15-19. Email or call Abel Montoya at Abel.Montoya@illinois.gov or 847-636-7253. (Hint: consider scheduling a workshop when you know your students will be online — during a gym or study hall perhaps?)
  2. Use our Rock the FAFSA toolkit, https://www.isac.org/counselors/Rock-the-FAFSA/index.html, to get the word out to students and families. The online toolkit includes downloadable logos, customizable event flyers, sample social media posts and downloadable memes, and a downloadable postcard with information on what students/families will need to complete a financial aid application at an online workshop.
  3. Students can complete their FAFSA or Alternative Application during the workshop, with personalized help from ISAC through the chat function.
  4. If you want to run your own Financial Aid Application Completion Workshop, ISAC can provide you with materials for the session, including a PowerPoint and script.
  5. Consider a friendly FAFSA Completion competition with another high school.

Want to know how your school is rockin' the FAFSA (and Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid) compared to other schools in Illinois? Check out our Financial Aid Application Completion Performance Metrics page to see the rankings by school on financial aid completions. We are highlighting high schools weekly on the ISAC website for FAFSA completion achievements!

Sign up for our FAFSA data-matching to get information on which of your students has not completed a financial aid application, so you can reach out to those who might need assistance. Find out more at https://www.isac.org/home/fafsa/index.html.


Submit Your Session Proposal Today
Sent to Principals/Superintendents/Administrators, High School Counselors/Teachers, College Admission Counselors, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange High School Participants, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange College Participants, Community Organizations and Public Libraries on March 9, 2021.

CCE Conference Logo
Fostering Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging
for the Success of All Learners

Time is running out to submit an interest session proposal for the 2021 College Changes Everything® (CCE) conference before the priority consideration deadline of March 12, 2021. One of the things that makes this conference so valuable to its attendees is the interest sessions developed and led by dedicated educators and professionals like you. We invite you to submit a proposal to showcase the work you do that contributes to student success. As a reminder, this year's virtual conference will be taking place during the week of July 12, 2021.

We have a broad group of stakeholders who attend this annual conference, and we encourage proposals that cover a wide range of themes related to college access and completion such as, but not limited to: college and career readiness; student retention, persistence, and completion; education, business, and the economy; and college costs and affordability. Sessions should provide in-depth information, practical ideas, and specific strategies for the audience, and demonstrate and promote positive steps taken to address college access, completion issues, and career readiness and sharing of specific lessons learned. Please complete the online session proposal form (more information about interest session submission is available on the conference web page).

Please share the information in this e-Message with colleagues in your organization and other partners.

2021 College Changes Everything Conference Planning Committee

  • Illinois Student Assistance Commission
  • Illinois Board of Higher Education
  • Illinois Community College Board
  • Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
  • Illinois State Board of Education
  • Illinois College Access Network
  • Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities
  • Advance Illinois
  • Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University
  • Generations Serving Generations
  • ACT Now
  • Women Employed

The College Changes Everything® Conference is sponsored
by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

Helping Illinois reach its Goal 2025: to increase the proportion
of adults in Illinois with high-quality college degrees and
postsecondary credentials to 60% by the year 2025


CCE


Additional Date Added for FAFSA Completion Initiative Webinar
Sent to Principals/Superintendents/Administrators, High School Counselors/Teachers, College Admission Counselors, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange High School Participants, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange College Participants, Community Organizations and Public Libraries on March 9, 2021.

State law now requires all Illinois public high school seniors to complete either the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) or the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid (Alternative Application) as a prerequisite to receiving a high school diploma.

To support implementation of this mandate, Illinois is hosting Rock the FAFSA Illinois Week from March 15th-19th. High Schools are encouraged to host one or more free online Financial Aid Application Completion Workshops. For more information about Rock the FAFSA Illinois Week, you can visit www.isac.org/counselors/Rock-the-FAFSA.

As part of Rock the FAFSA Illinois Week, ISAC's Professional Development staff will be hosting an additional FAFSA Completion Initiative webinar on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. This session will be offered at no cost to counselors, principals, and college-access professionals. For registration details and information about other professional development opportunities, visit our website at www.isac.org/pd/webinars.

FAFSA Completion Initiative Webinar

The ability to track student's completion is an important resource in achieving compliance with the requirement that Illinois public high school students complete one of the financial aid applications as a prerequisite to receiving a high school diploma. ISAC's FAFSA Completion Initiative offers Illinois school districts a way to identify students who have not submitted either a FAFSA or Alternative Application all in one place.

This session gives an in-depth look at the FAFSA Completion Initiative. High school counselors will learn how to access the FAFSA Completion Initiative and how to use this information to helps students who may need assistance in completing a financial aid application.

ISAC awards Continuing Education (CE) credits and Professional Development (PD) hours to session participants at a rate of one per contact hour. To earn these, it is necessary to attend the session in its entirety and complete an ISAC evaluation form. To receive PD hours an additional ISBE evaluation form must be submitted, along with your Illinois Educator Identification Number (EIN), to the Professional Development staff at isac.outreachtraining@illinois.gov.

For questions about ISAC's professional development opportunities, please contact isac.outreachtraining@illinois.gov.


Don't Forget – Submit Your Proposal
Sent to Principals/Superintendents/Administrators, High School Counselors/Teachers, College Admission Counselors, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange High School Participants, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange College Participants, Community Organizations and Public Libraries on February 25, 2021.

CCE Conference Logo
Fostering Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging
for the Success of All Learners

You can play an active role in shaping the 2021 College Changes Everything® (CCE) conference by submitting an interest session proposal. Share your insights, experiences, and creative solutions by submitting an interest session proposal showcasing programs, resources, and partnerships impacting student success. The strength of the conference comes from sessions developed and led by dedicated educators and professionals like you. This year's virtual conference will be taking place during the week of July 12, 2021.

We have a broad group of stakeholders who attend this annual conference, and we encourage proposals that cover a wide range of themes related to college access and completion such as, but not limited to: college and career readiness; student retention, persistence, and completion; education, business, and the economy; and college costs and affordability. Sessions should provide in-depth information, practical ideas, and specific strategies for the audience, and demonstrate and promote positive steps taken to address college access, completion issues, and career readiness and sharing of specific lessons learned. Please complete the online session proposal form (more information about interest session submission is available on the conference web page).

Deadline – Priority consideration will be given to completed session proposal forms submitted by March 12, 2021.

We understand this continues to be a difficult time for schools, colleges and universities, organizations, and their students and staff as they continue to adapt to changing learning and work environments, in addition to all the other challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage you to visit ISAC's web page, entitled College-Going and Financial Aid Resources and Services During the Coronavirus Outbreak, for information and resources to assist you and your students and families during the current circumstances.

Please share the information in this e-Message with colleagues in your organization and other partners.

2021 College Changes Everything Conference Planning Committee

  • Illinois Student Assistance Commission
  • Illinois Board of Higher Education
  • Illinois Community College Board
  • Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
  • Illinois State Board of Education
  • Illinois College Access Network
  • Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities
  • Advance Illinois
  • Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University
  • Generations Serving Generations
  • ACT Now
  • Women Employed

The College Changes Everything® Conference is sponsored
by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

Helping Illinois reach its Goal 2025: to increase the proportion
of adults in Illinois with high-quality college degrees and
postsecondary credentials to 60% by the year 2025


CCE


ISAC Transcript Exchange Bite-Sized Learning Opportunities
Sent to Principals/Superintendents/Administrators, High School Counselors/Teachers, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange High School Participants and Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange College Participants on February 17, 2021.

In the February 9th e-Message we announced online training opportunities by the Parchment team for ISAC Transcript Exchange. While the dates for those upcoming trainings remain the same, the times have been changed. Please see the training topics and updated times below. Just click on the "Join Here" link for the session(s) you would like to attend on the date and time indicated.

If you weren't able to join the training that took place on February 10th, click on the following link to access a recording of the session:

Parchment Notifications and Emails

As a reminder, ISAC Transcript Exchange provides the opportunity for Illinois high schools to use the Parchment service at no cost to send transcripts electronically to the colleges of their current students' choice and to other organizations requesting transcripts (e.g., scholarship providers). To protect the privacy and confidentiality of transcript data, documents are sent through a secure transcript service in compliance with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). If your school or district is not currently taking advantage of the ISAC Transcript Exchange and you would like to learn more about the service, please contact Lenore Smith from ISAC at Lenore.Smith@illinois.gov.


ISAC Electronic Transcript Exchange: Saving You and Your Students Time and Money
Sent to Principals/Superintendents/Administrators, High School Counselors/Teachers, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange High School Participants and Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange College Participants on February 9, 2021.

We are pleased to announce that the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) and Parchment have renewed their commitment to empowering students through the statewide ISAC Transcript Exchange initiative. The partnership helps ISAC with our mission to provide Illinois students with information and assistance to help make education beyond high school accessible and affordable. Schools and districts that participate in the initiative are making it easier for students to request, verify, and share academic records with any recipient worldwide.

Since 2011, ISAC Transcript Exchange has provided the opportunity for Illinois high schools to use the Parchment service at no cost to send transcripts electronically to the colleges of their current students' choice and to other organizations requesting transcripts (e.g., scholarship providers). To protect the privacy and confidentiality of transcript data, documents are sent through a secure transcript service in compliance with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). If your school or district is not currently taking advantage of the ISAC Transcript Exchange and you would like to learn more about the service, please contact Lenore Smith from ISAC at Lenore.Smith@illinois.gov.

Online Training Opportunities

Mark your calendars for these upcoming trainings conducted by the Parchment team for ISAC Transcript Exchange. These are bite-sized learning sessions with no registration needed. Just click on the "Join Here" link for the session(s) you would like to attend on the date and time indicated:


2021 CCE Conference: Save the Date & Call for Proposals
Sent to Principals/Superintendents/Administrators, High School Counselors/Teachers, College Admission Counselors, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange High School Participants, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange College Participants, Community Organizations and Public Libraries on February 5, 2021.

CCE Conference Logo

Save the Date & Call for Proposals

2021 CCE Conference: Fostering Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging for the Success of All Learners

Please mark your calendars for the 2021 College Changes Everything® (CCE) conference taking place the week of July 12, 2021. This annual conference is the state's preeminent college access and success and career readiness event. In light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic situation and the uncertainty about whether an in-person event in July will be possible within the Restore Illinois Plan framework, the 2021 conference will be a virtual event with online sessions throughout the week of July 12th. As with our in-person conferences, this online event will showcase best practices, collaborations, and resources available to promote and support student college and career readiness and to help Illinois reach its Goal 2025 – to increase the proportion of adults in Illinois with high-quality degrees and postsecondary credentials to 60% by the year 2025. For our state to reach this goal, stakeholders from all facets of a student's community must work together to support and provide them with the knowledge and opportunities to be successful along their education pathways and as they transition to employment. Despite the ongoing limited face-to-face opportunities to interact with our colleagues, the needs of our learners, institutions, and communities continue to be urgent and pressing, and it is important to come together to connect and facilitate learning with stakeholders across our state.

This year's conference theme is Fostering Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging for the Success of All Learners. Learners from underserved and historically underrepresented populations are not just experiencing problems directly resulting from the pandemic, but the pandemic has also elevated those inequities. It's critical we take steps now to examine and address the short- and long-term outcomes of our policies, programs, and structures, as well as grapple with those key issues and the tensions they raise as we strive to meet the needs of all learners. The CCE conference provides an opportunity for stakeholders to identify actionable solutions to strengthen our work to increase education and career opportunities for all learners, allowing them to contribute to stronger communities and a robust and more inclusive workforce and economy.

Call for Proposals: Due March 12, 2021 – Please Share Your Knowledge and Expertise

The Conference Planning Committee encourages you to help make this conference a valuable professional development experience by submitting a conference interest session proposal. The online session proposal form is available on the conference website. Presenting at the CCE conference is a terrific way to support and engage in active learning with attendees, share your ideas and expertise with a diverse audience, and enrich your own professional growth.

As the conference draws a broad group of professionals and stakeholders, we welcome proposals that cover a wide range of topics related to college access and completion and career readiness. Such topics might include, but are not limited to: college and career readiness; student retention, persistence, and completion; programs and services for underrepresented students; educational equity; career and technical education; partnerships; career development experiences; education, business, and the economy; college costs, financial aid, and affordability; and community stakeholder engagement. We are also looking at how these and other topics are connected to the conference theme of Fostering Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging for the Success of All Learners.

Each 60-minute session should provide in-depth information, practical ideas, and best practices for the audience and demonstrate positive steps taken and lessons learned. Conference attendees appreciate the opportunity to hear from the students being served by the program(s) and/or service(s). To that end, we encourage you to include students in your sessions when possible.

  • Deadline – Priority consideration will be given to completed session proposal forms submitted by Friday, March 12, 2021. The online proposal form is on the conference website.
  • Non-Commercial Policy – Please note that sessions are to be non-commercial forums. Individuals should refrain from using brand names or endorsing specific products. Sessions are not to be used as a place for direct promotion of products and services.
  • Presenter Compensation – The CCE conference does not provide any compensation for individuals accepted to serve as conference interest session presenters.

A key strength of the conference is in bringing together a diverse audience from across the state to focus on educational opportunity and student success: college access practitioners; high school leaders, counselors, and case managers; college and university leaders and administrators; employers and workforce development professionals; policymakers and elected officials interested in higher education and career readiness; and learners themselves. The conference also serves as a catalyst for discussions and an opportunity for attendees to improve their practice of collaboration and collective leadership as we work toward the state's 60 by 25 goal. We hope you will attend the conference as we stand together as a group of like-minded professionals committed to improving outcomes for all learners. A conference agenda and registration will be available later this spring.

We understand this continues to be a difficult time for schools, colleges and universities, organizations, and their students and staff as they continue to adapt to changing learning and work environments, in addition to all the other challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage you to visit ISAC's web page, entitled College-Going and Financial Aid Resources and Services During the Coronavirus Outbreak, for information and resources to assist you and your students and families during the current circumstances.

Please share the information in this e-message with colleagues in your organization and other partners.

2021 College Changes Everything Conference Planning Committee

  • Illinois Student Assistance Commission
  • Illinois Board of Higher Education
  • Illinois Community College Board
  • Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
  • Illinois State Board of Education
  • Illinois College Access Network
  • Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities
  • Advance Illinois
  • Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University
  • Generations Serving Generations
  • ACT Now
  • Women Employed

The College Changes Everything® Conference is sponsored
by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.
Helping Illinois reach its Goal 2025: to increase the proportion
of adults in Illinois with high-quality college degrees and
postsecondary credentials to 60% by the year 2025


CCE


FAFSA Completion Initiative Webinars
Sent to Principals/Superintendents/Administrators, High School Counselors/Teachers, College Admission Counselors, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange High School Participants, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange College Participants, Community Organizations and Public Libraries on February 5, 2021.

Beginning with the 2020-21 academic year, state law now requires all Illinois public high school seniors to complete either the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) or the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid (Alternative Application) as a prerequisite to receiving a high school diploma. For students who choose not to file an application a FAFSA Nonparticipation Form may be completed by their parent to waive this requirement. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has made the FAFSA Nonparticipation Form available in both English and Spanish on their website. High school counselors are encouraged to contact ISBE for guidance on using this waiver.

To help support implementation of this mandate, ISAC offers the FAFSA Completion Initiative. Through this free service, ISAC can share data with local school districts on a weekly basis to identify students who have not filed a financial aid application (the FAFSA or Alternative Application). This information is used by school/district counselors to help reach students who might otherwise not complete an application. You can also export a roster to help document the completion of the new graduation requirement all in one place.

Join the ISAC Professional Development staff on one of our upcoming FAFSA Completion Initiative Webinars. These sessions will run through the end of February and will be offered at no cost.

FAFSA Completion Initiative

The ability to track student's completion is an important resource in achieving compliance with the requirement that Illinois public high school students complete one of the financial aid applications as a prerequisite to receiving a high school diploma. ISAC's FAFSA Completion Initiative offers Illinois school districts a way to identify students who have not submitted either a FAFSA or Alternative Application all in one place.

This session gives an in-depth look at the FAFSA Completion Initiative. High school counselors will learn how to access the FAFSA Completion Initiative and how to use this information to helps students who may need assistance in completing a financial aid application.

DateTime*Register
2/11/2021
11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
View Recording
2/16/2021
11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
View Recording
2/18/2021
1 – 2 p.m.
View Recording
2/23/2021
1 – 2 p.m.
View Recording
2/25/2021
11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
View Recording

* All times Central

ISAC awards Continuing Education (CE) credits and Professional Development (PD) hours to session participants at a rate of one per contact hour. To earn these, it is necessary to attend each session in its entirety. To receive CE credits, complete an ISAC evaluation form; to receive PD hours, complete an ISBE evaluation form and submit your Illinois Educator Identification Number (EIN) to the Professional Development staff at isac.outreachtraining@illinois.gov.

For questions about ISAC's professional development opportunities or webinar series, please contact the Professional Development staff at isac.outreachtraining@illinois.gov.


Reminder: PaCE Virtual Offerings (Spring 2021)
Sent to Principals/Superintendents/Administrators, High School Counselors/Teachers, College Admission Counselors, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange High School Participants, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange College Participants, Community Organizations and Public Libraries on February 3, 2021.

Brought to You by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC)

In 2016, the Illinois Postsecondary and Career Expectations (PaCE) Framework was adopted by the four educational agencies in Illinois: ISAC, the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). The Illinois PaCE Framework is a tool that provides guidance to students, families, and educators on what types of experiences and information a student should have to make informed decisions about college and career planning, beginning in eighth grade and continuing through high school.

The framework is organized around three key areas:

  • Career Exploration and Development,
  • Postsecondary Education Exploration, Preparation, and Selection, and
  • Financial Aid and Literacy

We are sending this message to remind you about the upcoming dates for the PaCE Overview and PaCE Implementation Leader Training. ISAC offers these sessions to help schools understand and adopt the Illinois PaCE Framework or develop a customized framework to fit their needs. These sessions are offered virtually via WebEx for counselors and college access professionals at no cost.

Registration and session details can be found on the Illinois PaCE Webinars page. Once registered, participants will be able to access session materials.

ISAC awards Continuing Education (CE) credits and Professional Development (PD) hours to session participants at a rate of one per contact hour. To earn these, it is necessary to attend each session in its entirety and complete an ISAC evaluation form and an ISBE evaluation form at the end of each session. Participants who need PD hours are required to provide their Illinois Educator Identification Number (EIN) when submitting their ISBE evaluation.

The ISAC Professional Development staff is still offering schools/districts the opportunity to customize their own PaCE Framework through a virtual PaCE Framework Development Workshop. We also want to share our newest PaCE offering, PaCE Implementation Support sessions. These sessions are available to schools/districts that would like guidance on how to implement their framework within their school or district.

Visit our PaCE Support and Training page to learn more about our PaCE Support options.

For questions about ISAC's PaCE Support options, please contact the Professional Development staff at isac.pace@illinois.gov.


Illinois 60 by 25 Network – Registration Now Open: Free, Virtual Annual Conference
Sent to Principals/Superintendents/Administrators, High School Counselors/Teachers, College Admission Counselors, Community Organizations and Public Libraries on January 28, 2021.

Register now for the 2021 Illinois 60 by 25 Network annual conference: Forward Together – Navigating Uncertainty and Advancing to 60% by 2025. We have re-imagined this year's online conference and will bring the high-quality conference content you have counted on since 2014 over four days, February 22-25, 2021. To view the conference agenda and register for sessions, please visit the conference website.

Thanks to our virtual setting, there is no cost to attend this year. (Hint: This is the year to invite a colleague to join you!) We've spaced out the sessions so you can keep pace with your work demands between speakers. There are specific sector networking opportunities on Wednesday (February 24th) to connect with others to share your experiences and learn how colleagues across the state are navigating similar challenges. Register for each plenary and breakout session individually, allowing you to customize your experience. Be sure to download the calendar invite once you've registered, which is unique to your registration. As such, please do not forward it to anyone else; instead, share the original registration link so that colleagues can register themselves.

The Illinois 60 by 25 Network was launched in 2013 by three Network Organizers: Advance Illinois, Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University (EdSystems), and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC). The goal of the Network is to support communities to increase meaningful and equitable postsecondary attainment.


FAFSA Completion Initiative Page Updated for 2021-22
Sent to Principals/Superintendents/Administrators and High School Counselors/Teachers on January 22, 2021.

As processing of the 2021-22 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) and Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid (Alternative Application) has progressed from the fall into the new year, ISAC tools have provided the means for high school advisors to keep track of their students' application completion rates. The ability to track student activity is an important resource in achieving compliance with the requirement that Illinois public high school students complete one of the applications as a prerequisite to receiving a high school diploma. (A waiver process exists for students who choose not to file an application; see the Illinois State Board of Education's (ISBE) website for the form.)

Earlier in the fall, the GAP Access portal was opened for the submission by high schools of senior class student lists, and recently, the ISBE provided us with public high school senior class data. All of that data is being matched against FAFSAs and Alternative Applications that are filed each week, with updated individual student information made available to high schools every Monday in GAP Access.

This week, we expanded the types of data that are available to include "FAFSA Completion by School" on the 2021-22 FAFSA Completion Initiative page of ISAC's website. That data is presented by high school - for schools that have signed up for the FAFSA Completion Initiative - and provides the number and percentage of students at each school who have completed an application.

Taken collectively, all of this available data can be used to help identify, and then reach, students who might otherwise not complete an application, and who may need assistance with the financial aid process in general.


Upcoming Important Dates from ISAC
Sent to Principals/Superintendents/Administrators, High School Counselors/Teachers, College Admission Counselors, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange High School Participants, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange College Participants, Community Organizations and Public Libraries on January 20, 2021.

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) would like to make you aware of the following information, which may be of interest to you and/or your college-bound students and their families.

Unless otherwise noted, links in this message are to corresponding pages at ISAC's website (isac.org).

You may either scroll through the remainder of this message, or click on the appropriate link(s) to go directly to a specific section:

COVID-19 Resources and Updates

General Information (Not Specific to One Academic Year)

2021-22 (July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022)

COVID-19 RESOURCES AND UPDATES

Although we are working differently during this time, we want to remind students, families, our partners and other constituents that ISAC continues to be here to answer your questions and to support all Illinoisans with college planning and financial aid. Find important resources and the latest updates at the College-Going and Financial Aid Resources and Services During the Coronavirus Outbreak page of our website.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Throughout the Spring: PaCE Virtual Offerings

A January 11 e-Message provides information and access to registration for upcoming Postsecondary and Career Expectations (PaCE) virtual offerings, including PaCE Overview and PaCE Implementation Leader Training. Virtual PaCE Framework Development Workshops and PaCE Implementation Support sessions are also available.

Throughout the Spring: Professional Development Webinars

A December 18 e-Message provides information and access to registration for the Professional Development Webinar series that is being offered through May. For further details, and to register for one of the sessions, visit the Webinars page of the Professional Development area.

February 1-5: Financial Aid Certification Series

A January 14 e-Message announces that the next Financial Aid Certification Webinar Series – providing professionals with a detailed understanding of the financial aid process – will be offered from February 1–5, 2021. For further details, and to register for one of the sessions, visit the Webinars page of the Professional Development area.

April 15: Next Commission Meeting

The next meeting of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission is scheduled to take place at 1 p.m. (CT) on Thursday, April 15, 2021. Further details, including a listing of tentative agenda items, will be available prior to the meeting via the ISAC's Governing Board: The Commission section of the About ISAC area.

Visit the Commission Meeting Schedule page for information regarding all meetings scheduled in 2021.

Holiday Schedules

ISAC staff will be unavailable for these holidays:

  • Friday, February 12, 2021 – Lincoln's Birthday
  • Monday, February 15, 2021 – Presidents' Day

Staff will again be available the first business day immediately following each holiday.

For Assistance

Access the Counselors area anytime, or send an e-mail message to ISAC's School Services Department. With the exception of days when ISAC staff members are unavailable, we will review and respond to messages during regular business hours of Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. CT.

2021-22 ACADEMIC YEAR

Continue Submitting Sixth Semester Data
(Deadline Date Not Yet Determined)

While sixth semester data will continue to be accepted until a deadline date is announced, high schools are encouraged to submit their data as soon as they are able to do so.

The final date on which sixth semester data will be accepted has not yet been determined. High schools will be notified once the deadline date is established.

While our goal remains to stick as close as possible to "business as usual" in these unusual times, the postponement of many college entrance exams (ACT and SAT) caused by the COVID-19 pandemic means that the State Scholar announcement schedule must move to later in the academic year than it would normally occur.

You will be notified via the usual means (the "Program News" section of the State Scholar Program area, the Counselor Message Board, and/or ISAC's e-Messaging service) as new information becomes available. In the meantime, please continue to submit sixth semester data for your high school.

March 1: MTI Scholarship and Illinois SETTW Application Deadlines

Remind your college-bound seniors who plan to pursue a career in teaching that March 1, 2021 is the priority application consideration date for the 2021-22 Minority Teachers of Illinois (MTI) Scholarship and Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver (SETTW) programs. Students may access these applications via the Interactive Applications (Apply Online) section of the Applications page. Complete applications received after this date will be considered only if MTI funding or available tuition waivers remain after all timely complete applicants have been awarded.

Note: For qualified applicants scheduled to graduate from an approved high school in the academic year in which a tuition waiver is awarded, the highest ACT or SAT test score is used as part of the award determination. ISAC anticipates receiving the necessary exam results prior to awarding 2021-22 tuition waivers. Encourage students to apply prior to the March 1 priority application consideration date so that they will have a timely application on record when the exam results are received.

FAFSA® Still Available

The 2021-22 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is still available online, and – if not already done – should be completed and submitted as soon as possible by students who will be attending college between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. FAFSA results are used to determine eligibility for several forms of federal, state and institutional financial assistance, including the Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant.

ISAC is dedicated to helping educate students and parents about all aspects of financial aid. We devote resources to public outreach activities to help families plan for college. Public awareness and education regarding our programs is our priority as we provide students and their families with the most current information available. For example, the ISACorps – ISAC's group of recent college graduates – are trained to serve as near peer mentors to high school students. Please note that all outreach events in 2021 will be done virtually until otherwise noted.

Details regarding the 2021-22 application cycle may be accessed by counselors and other professionals via the Applying for Financial Aid section of the e-Library for Partners.

Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid Available

Undocumented students and transgender students meeting the criteria of the Retention of Illinois Students and Equity (RISE) Act may file the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid – which is patterned after the FAFSA and available in English and Spanish – to apply for the MAP grant. Further details are provided at ISAC's RISE Act page.

Every Monday: New FAFSA Completion Initiative Match Data Available

Beginning with the 2020-21 academic year, all Illinois public high school students are required to complete either the FAFSA or the Alternative Application as a prerequisite to receiving a high school diploma. ISAC's FAFSA Completion Initiative is a resource that can help high schools monitor their students' compliance with this mandate.

The FAFSA Completion Initiative matches student lists of participating high schools against FAFSA and Alternative Application records. New 2021-22 match data is available weekly, on Monday mornings.

Principals that have not already done so can sign up their respective high school for participation in ISAC's FAFSA Completion Initiative through our automated system at the ISAC Gift Assistance Programs (GAP) Access portal.


2021 Financial Aid Certification Series
Sent to Principals/Superintendents/Administrators, High School Counselors/Teachers, College Admission Counselors, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange High School Participants, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange College Participants, Community Organizations and Public Libraries on January 14, 2021.

Brought to You by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC)

The ISAC Professional Development staff are pleased to announce the next Financial Aid Certification Webinar Series will be offered from February 1st – 5th, 2021. This series of online webinars gives professionals a detailed understanding of the financial aid process. Topics include: The Financial Aid Process, Verification and Professional Judgment, and Working with Special Student Populations. These sessions are offered virtually via WebEx for counselors and college access professionals at no cost.

Participants will have the opportunity to complete an online assessment after every webinar. Participants who score an 80% or higher on the assessment will receive a certificate of completion (for each assessment passed) from ISAC via e-mail.

For information about each session, and to register for one of the webinars, visit the Professional Development website at www.isac.org/pd/webinars.

ISAC awards Continuing Education (CE) credits and Professional Development (PD) hours to session participants at a rate of one per contact hour. To earn these, it is necessary to attend each session in its entirety. To receive a CE credit, complete an ISAC evaluation form; to receive PD hours, complete an ISBE evaluation form and submit your Illinois Educator Identification Number (EIN) to the Professional Development staff at isac.outreachtraining@illinois.gov.

For questions about ISAC's Financial Aid Certification Webinar Series, contact the ISAC Professional Development staff at isac.outreachtraining@illinois.gov.


PaCE Virtual Offerings (Spring 2021)
Sent to Principals/Superintendents/Administrators, High School Counselors/Teachers, College Admission Counselors, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange High School Participants, Illinois Electronic Transcript Exchange College Participants, Community Organizations and Public Libraries on January 11, 2021.

Brought to You by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC)

In 2016, the Illinois Postsecondary and Career Expectations (PaCE) Framework was adopted by the four educational agencies in Illinois: ISAC, Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), and Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). The Illinois PaCE Framework is a tool that provides guidance to students, families, and educators on what types of experiences and information a student should have to make informed decisions about college and career planning, beginning in eighth grade and continuing through high school.

The framework is organized around three key areas:

  • Career Exploration and Development,
  • Postsecondary Education Exploration, Preparation, and Selection, and
  • Financial Aid and Literacy.

The ISAC Professional Development staff is pleased to announce new Spring 2021 dates for the PaCE Overview and PaCE Implementation Leader Training. ISAC offers these sessions to help schools understand and adopt the Illinois PaCE Framework or develop a customized framework to fit their needs. These sessions are offered virtually via WebEx for counselors and college access professionals at no cost.

Registration and session details can be found on the Illinois PaCE Webinar page. Once registered, participants will be able to access session materials.

The ISAC Professional Development staff is still offering schools/districts the opportunity to customize their own PaCE Framework through a virtual PaCE Framework Development Workshop. We also want to share our newest PaCE offering, PaCE Implementation Support sessions. These sessions are available to schools/districts that would like guidance on how to implement their framework within their school or district.

Visit our PaCE Support and Training page to learn more about our PaCE Support options.

For questions about ISAC's PaCE Support options, please contact us at isac.pace@illinois.gov.

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ISAC COMMUNIQUÉ


December 2020 ISAC Communiqué
Sent on January 4, 2021.

The latest edition of the ISAC Communiqué is now available for your review, and may be accessed via the Partner e-Messages & Newsletters section of the e-Library for Partners at isac.org. This electronic version of ISAC's newsletter is a compilation of information provided to Counselor partners via ISAC's e-Messaging service over the past quarter.

Topics covered in this electronic Communiqué include:

  • 2020-21 Professional Development Webinars
    (sent December 18, 2020)
  • A Holiday Wish from ISAC
    (sent December 11, 2020)
  • ISAC Transcript Exchange Lunch & Learn
    (sent December 10, 2020)
  • Reminder: PaCE Overview and Implementation Leader Training Fall Virtual Offerings
    (sent November 25, 2020)
  • Next Week: 2020 Financial Aid Certification
    (sent November 9, 2020)
  • 2020 Financial Aid Certification Web Series
    (sent October 30, 2020)
  • PaCE Overview and Implementation Leader Training – Fall Virtual Offerings
    (sent October 27, 2020)
  • FAFSA Upload Function Open – Populate Database for FAFSA Completion Initiative
    (sent October 14, 2020)
  • GAP Access and Student Portals Unavailable This Weekend
    (sent October 8, 2020)
  • 2021-22 FAFSA®, Alternative Application, and Important Dates
    (sent October 7, 2020)
  • Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) 2020 FAFSA Symposium: Live Session Recordings Posted
    (sent October 6, 2020)
  • Parchment Connect Virtual Events
    (sent October 5, 2020)
  • September 2020 ISAC Communiqué
    (sent October 1, 2020)

Electronic newsletters are available at the beginning of each quarter (January, April, July, and October), and are the compilation of information announced via an e-Message to any of the Counselor subscription groups during the previous quarter.

Encourage Your Colleagues to Sign Up for e-Messaging

ISAC's e-Messaging service is our primary means of communicating information to Counselor partners.

Encourage your colleagues who have not done so to subscribe through the Counselors e-Messaging sign-up page at isac.org today, so that they won't miss future announcements or updates from ISAC.

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