ISAC State Legislative Update
Director of Government Relations
August 18, 2023
Note: This report includes only minor updates to the June report, including Public Act numbers for all bills listed in that report; all have now been signed into law.
The first spring session of the 103rd General Assembly came to a close in the early hours of Saturday, May 27th – missing the originally-scheduled date by just over a week, but still comfortably ahead of the traditional May 31st adjournment.
Shortly after midnight that Saturday, the House passed the fiscal year 2024 budget (Senate Bill (SB) 250, now Public Act 103-0006) and the budget implementation (BIMP) bill, which makes changes to statute that help put the budget plan into effect (House Bill (HB) 3817, now Public Act 103-0008). Both bills had passed the Senate in late-night votes earlier in the week. In both chambers, the votes were essentially along party lines, although three Senate Democrats voted "no" on the budget, citing their opposition to legislative pay increases and a desire to see additional funding devoted to pensions. Having negotiated the final deal with House and Senate Democrats, Governor JB Pritzker signed the budget bill in a ceremony on June 6th. (He did use a reduction veto, also known as a line item veto, to pare back salaries for elected and appointed officials to levels intended under the law.)
Highlights of the FY24 budget are described below, along with other legislative items affecting college access and affordability that were approved by both the House and the Senate and have now been signed into law.
SB 250 (Sims/Gordon-Booth – Public Act 103-0006) allocates state and federal funding for FY24 (7/1/23 – 6/30/24) and made supplemental appropriations for the final weeks of FY23. According to a summary from the Governor's Office of Management and Budget, the General Funds budget for FY24 appropriates $50.428 billion and is based on projected revenues of $50.611 billion, resulting in a small projected surplus of about $183 million.
The higher education budget for the new fiscal year continues a trend of reinvestment in the sector: Building on FY23 appropriations that included the largest increase for Illinois higher education in twenty years, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), the FY24 budget includes $2.53 billion for higher education. This is an increase of $279 million (12.4 percent) compared to FY23. The FY24 budget provides an additional $100 million in funding for public universities and community colleges, plus additional targeted investments in areas such as dual credit, community college pathways to health careers, programs to prepare community college students for jobs in electric vehicle production or data center operations, and support for students who lack stable access to housing.
While the budget does not reimburse universities for amounts that they waive for the Illinois Veteran Grant (IVG) or Illinois National Guard (ING) Grant, about $4.2 million is once again appropriated to the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) to reimburse community colleges for IVG and ING Grant costs.
Several programs will receive FY24 funding at their FY23 levels, but the ISAC budget for the new fiscal year also includes new funding for scholarship and grant programs, agency operations, and outreach, research, and training.
The increases in ISAC programmatic funding include the following:
- Funding will increase by $100 million for FY24 Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants. The program is appropriated $701,566,200, as requested by Governor Pritzker. The budget implementation bill will also increase the maximum MAP grant allowed by statute from its current level of $8,508 per student per year, permitting the Commission to award a grant of up to $10,896 in future years if funding allows. (Note that the maximum MAP grant actually offered is typically lower than the maximum allowed by statute and is set by the Commission when approving the MAP formula each year. For the current maximum, see isac.org.)
- A FY23 supplemental appropriation of $2 million to ISAC for MAP will also helped cover a larger-than-expected volume of late-year claims for the grant.
- The AIM HIGH grant program will receive $50 million, up from $35 million in recent years. Originally a pilot scheduled to end after FY23, the program is made permanent by HB 301. (See the bill description later in this report for more details.) The BIMP also expands the pool of students eligible for AIM HIGH by raising the family income cap from its current level (no more than six times the poverty level) to a family income of no more than eight times the poverty level.
- The Minority Teachers of Illinois (MTI) Scholarship Program will receive $8 million, an increase of more than 90% over the FY23 level. The FY24 appropriation even exceeds the amounts requested by the Commission and Governor, which had been based on recent application levels for the program.
- The Golden Apple Scholars and Golden Apple Accelerators programs for teachers-in-training will receive significant boosts, as well. Scholars funding will grow from $6,498,000 to $10,750,000 from state General Funds for FY24, and Accelerators funding will grow from $750,000 to $5 million from state General Funds. These programs are part of ISAC's budget but administered in partnership with the private Golden Apple Foundation.
- The Illinois Teachers Loan Repayment Program will receive $975,000, an increase over the $439,900 received annually in recent years. This is expected to allow the Commission to serve all eligible applicants, although the uncertainty surrounding federal student loan relief initiatives has made it harder to predict demand for state-level loan repayment assistance.
- A small increase to $1.3 million for Police, Fire, and Correctional Officer Dependents Grants is meant to ensure that recipients remain free from paying tuition or mandatory fees as those costs continue to rise at many institutions.
- A grant to the 'Ndigo Foundation to fund journalism internships was renewed and increased from $500,000 in FY23 to $550,000 in FY24.
- Two new funding lines were added:
- $2 million was appropriated for the new iGROW Tech Scholarship program, which will be created under HB 1378 (see below).
- $10 million was appropriated for the new "Prepare for Illinois' Future" Program, which the BIMP directs ISAC to administer with a goal of providing Illinois college students access to free preparation for graduate and professional school entrance exams and professional licensing exams. The agency will solicit bids from vendors to provide this service.
- The budget implementation bill also includes language describing the allowable uses for funds under the Governor's new Smart Start initiative for early childhood care and education. Under the new language, the Illinois Department of Human Services will be permitted to use Smart Start funds to support Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity Scholarships, which ISAC administers. Federal funding is still available for the 2023-24 academic year for the scholarships, but this statutory change establishes DHS's authority to work with ISAC to continue the scholarship program in the future.
BILLS PASSED BY BOTH HOUSES
The General Assembly has approved 566 bills this legislative session, some of which still await action from the Governor – but all bills included in the prior (June) State Legislative Update have now been signed.
Once the General Assembly sends a bill to the Governor, he has 60 days to decide whether to sign it, veto it, or allow it to become law with neither his signature nor his objection. The General Assembly's fall session, at which any veto actions would be considered, is scheduled for October 24-26 and November 7-9. Although the fall session was established for the purpose of responding to vetoes, the legislature may take up additional measures during that time, as well.
For the full text of each bill, voting records, and more, visit the Illinois General Assembly website, www.ilga.gov, or use the link provided in each description below.
In addition to the Prepare for Illinois' Future test preparation program described in the "Budget" section above, the agency will be asked to administer the following additional programs:
- HB 1378 (Yang Rohr/Cervantes) is a Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce initiative to create a new, ISAC-administered "groan" program – a grant that may be converted into a loan – beginning with the 2024-2025 academic year. The bill creates the Illinois Graduate and Retain Our Workforce (iGROW) Tech Scholarship for students in information technology majors, which recipients would have to repay with interest if they fail to fulfill a commitment to work in a related career field after graduation. The bill requires ISAC to establish a methodology for prioritizing applications from people who demonstrate a financial need or hardship, from minority students, and from applicants demonstrating academic excellence. Scholarships could be awarded through the 2029-30 academic year.
- Status: Public Act 103-0519
- SB 1508 (Hunter/L. Hernandez) will lead to the creation of two scratch-off lotto tickets to support scholarships. A portion of proceeds will be appropriated to ISAC and designated for United Negro College Fund Illinois (UNCF Illinois) to give scholarships to Illinois students, who could use them at Illinois institutions or out-of-state schools that work with UNCF (which includes a number of schools classified as Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Scratch-off proceeds would also go to the Dream Fund Commission, which administers privately-funded scholarships for undocumented Illinois students.
- Status: Public Act 103-0381
Bills Making Changes to Existing ISAC-Administered Programs
- HB 301 (Stuart/Halpin) makes the merit-based, means-tested AIM HIGH program permanent, with the following changes. (These are in addition to the expansion of the program under the BIMP, which extends eligibility to families with incomes up to eight times the federal poverty level.)
- Universities must use the words "AIM HIGH" in the names of any campus programs supported by AIM HIGH funds.
- Universities may award AIM HIGH grants to part-time students who are completing their final semester/quarter.
- Universities will be required to match state funding at a higher rate than under current law, beginning with funds appropriated for FY24. A public university in which an average of at least 49% of the students seeking a bachelor's degree or certificate received a Pell Grant over the prior 3 academic years will be required to match 35% (instead of 20%) of the amount of state funds awarded in a given academic year with non-loan financial aid for eligible students; universities where fewer than 49% of students are Pell recipients must match 70% (instead of 60%) of state funds awarded.
- Universities must maintain their level of non-loan financial aid spending from AY17-18 (FY18) or AY21-22 (FY22), whichever is lower. (Under current law, the baseline maintenance of effort is set at FY18 levels.)
- The Commission will not be required to issue a separate annual report on the program after 2024, although data collection will continue, and reporting will occur through the agency's data book.
- Status: Public Act 103-0516
- HB 2380 (Fine/LaPointe) expands the Human Services Professional Loan Repayment Program, which was established in law last year. The program will now include employees of any "community-based human services agency" "that is contracted with, receives funding from, or is grant-funded by" one of the state human services agencies specified in the law. The bill also removes a provision that limits an applicant to a maximum of four years of grant assistance, and it allows the agency to prioritize applications based on financial need. The bill has a July 1, 2023, effective date, but funding for the program was not included in ISAC's budget for FY24. (Note: A $250,000 appropriation for the program from General Revenue Funds was included in the Illinois Department of Human Services budget; legislators may correct this by pursuing a legislative change during the fall Veto Session that deletes the line from the IDHS budget and appropriates it to ISAC.)
- Status: Public Act 103-0031
- HB 2898 (West/Villanueva) is an initiative of the Partnership for College Completion. Under the bill, if a for-profit institution is found by the federal government to have used unfair, misleading, or deceptive practices, and the school is required to pay loan refunds to students who attended in accordance with a final judgment against the institution issued by a court of competent jurisdiction, then the college would also be required to reimburse the state for any MAP grants they received during the years when they were found to have engaged in the problematic behavior. Any collected funds would go towards additional ISAC-administered grants to students. The changes in the bill will only have an effect in the case of future findings of fraud or deception; institutions will not be required to repay funds related to findings that occurred before the bill takes effect.
- Status: Public Act 103-0536
- HB 3498 (Chung/Koehler – Passed Both Houses) will allow the agency to prorate the amount owed by a teacher who begins to fulfill his or her teaching obligations later than initially required under the terms of the Minority Teachers of Illinois, Golden Apple Scholars, or Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver programs. The change is likely to affect only a small number of teachers, but to each individual, the relief could be substantial. The bill will create an incentive for recipients who have already entered repayment to complete at least a portion of their original teaching obligation, benefitting schools with significant minority or bilingual populations, low-income schools, and special education classrooms.
- Status: Public Act 103-0448
- SB 57 (Fine/LaPointe) will expand the Community Behavioral Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program beginning July 1, 2024. Changes include higher maximum grant sizes; additional categories of eligible recipients, including certified drug and alcohol counselors and people with degrees in counseling, psychology, social work, or marriage and family therapy; additional treatment settings including state psychiatric hospitals, and a set-aside of 30% of program funding for applicants belonging to underrepresented groups.
- Status: Public Act 103-0056
- SB 195 (Villanueva/Gong-Gershowitz) contains two sections. The first allows judges to deny a petition for guardianship change if it's being sought so that the child will be considered an independent student and thereby qualify for more financial aid. The second component makes changes and updates to the Educational Planning Services Consumer Protection Act, or Segura Law. Among the changes to the Segura Law, the bill revises a disclaimer that planning services providers must give to prospective customers, stating that general educational planning services may be available elsewhere for free (rather than that the services offered by the provider are available elsewhere for free). Some educational planning services providers also expressed confusion over whether the law required them to get specific authorization to operate in the state (e.g., to obtain a license), which was not the law's intent. SB 195 removes language that contributed to this misunderstanding.
- Status: Public Act 103-0475
- House Resolution (HR) 62 urges the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to support the state goal of increasing the number and diversity of Illinois' educator workforce by collaborating with the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), ICCB, and ISAC to develop and launch a state-wide teacher recruitment system, possibly with the support from an outside vendor, that will be available to the public by July 1, 2024, and will support interested candidates statewide to apply to, enroll in, and complete Illinois' Teacher Preparation Programs and succeed in their eventual job placement.
- Status: Resolution Adopted
Other Bills Affecting Access and Affordability
The remaining bills in this report make no direct changes to ISAC programs, but they may affect college access and affordability and/or financial aid processing.
- HB 2503 (Stuart/Halpin) codifies an existing agreement among the state's community colleges that governs tuition and fee rates and related policies when a resident of one community college district wants to enroll in a program that is not offered in their district of residence but is offered in another district.
- Status: Public Act 103-0159
- HB 2528 (Ammons/Faraci) directs the Illinois Board of Higher Education to administer a Hunger-Free Campus grant program for public institutions of higher education, subject to appropriation. (Funding was not included in the FY24 budget for this purpose, according to IBHE.) To be designated a hunger-free campus, an institution would be required to establish a hunger task force, designate a staff member to assist students' enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), provide options for using SNAP benefits on campus or in surrounding areas, participate in awareness events, provide a physical food pantry or access to a local food pantry near campus, create a student meal credit donation or free meal voucher program, and conduct an annual student survey on hunger.
- Status: Public Act 103-0435
- HB 3233 (L. Hernandez/Villa) directs the Illinois DREAM Fund Commission to develop a marketing plan on the purpose and benefits of donating to the Fund, and it allows transmitters of money to create a voluntary surcharge through which people engaging in international remittances can contribute to the DREAM Fund when making a transaction. The Fund provides scholarships, funded by private donations, for undocumented Illinois students.
- Status: Public Act 103-0338
- HB 3522 (Yang-Rohr/Villivalam) will allow institutions of higher education to grant credit at the postsecondary level to a high school graduate who has earned an Illinois Global Scholar Certification (a signifier of "global competence," overseen by the State Board of Education), beginning with the 2024-25 academic year. The bill also allows nonpublic Illinois high schools to participate in the Global Scholars program, which was developed by social studies teachers.
- Status: Public Act 103-0352
- HB 3648 (Ammons/Pacione-Zayas) creates the Higher Education in Prison Act and requires institutions that offer higher education programs in prisons to report enrollment and completion data to IBHE and ICCB, disaggregated by variables including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, age, and type of degree or certificate.
- Status: Public Act 103-0541
- HB 3759 (Stuart/Halpin) is an initiative of the Higher Education Working Group intended to give Illinois public colleges and universities an advantage in recruiting Illinois students. The bill requires that student profile information from a certain statewide assessment of high school students (currently the SAT) be made available to the state's public institutions of higher education, and it allows recruiters from Illinois public institutions of higher education access to high school campuses on the same terms currently available to military recruiters. The bill also requires that the State Board of Education, by January 1, 2024, make student directory information electronically accessible for official recruiting representatives of the armed forces of Illinois and the United States, and for State public institutions of higher education.
- Status: Public Act 103-0204
- HB 3760 (Stuart/Faraci) is an initiative of the public universities to create a four-year uniform admission pilot program for community college transfer students, beginning with the 2024-2025 academic year. At a minimum, public universities will be required to guarantee admission to applicants who are enrolled at a community college after graduating from an Illinois high school, have completed 36 transferable semester hours, have a minimum GPA of 3.0, and meet the institution's English language proficiency requirements. Institutions may implement a more lenient (i.e., more inclusive) policy.
- Status: Public Act 103-0205
- SB 49 (Fine/Morgan) requires higher education institutions to provide a transcript to a student or former student who requests one, even if the person owes a debt to the institution, if they're seeking the transcript for a job application, college transfer, applying for financial aid, joining the military, or pursuing other postsecondary opportunities (under current law, only for seeking employment). Beginning with the 2023-2024 academic year, the bill requires each institution to have a written policy "that outlines the process by which a current or former student may obtain a transcript or diploma that has been withheld from the student because the student owes a debt." It also includes requirements for posting and distributing the policy, as well as requirements to report information related to financial holds annually to IBHE or ICCB, as appropriate, beginning July 2024.
- Status: Public Act 103-0054
- SB 99 (Fine/G. Johnson) creates the Removing Barriers to Higher Education Success Act. The Act establishes that certain documentation should be considered sufficient evidence that the student has a disability and a right to accommodation at an Illinois public institution of higher learning. It also sets standards for policy transparency and for dissemination of policies related to student disabilities.
- Status: Public Act 103-0058
- SB 1787 (Koehler/Elik) creates a Rural Advisory Council to present to the State Superintendent of Education the opportunity (through December 31, 2031) to speak directly with representatives of rural communities on various policy and legal issues, to present feedback on critical issues facing rural communities, to generate ideas, and to communicate information to the State Superintendent on pre-K – 12 education.
- Status: Public Act 103-0497
- SB 2288 (Castro/Costa Howard) expands upon the existing Illinois Articulation Initiative by requiring public colleges and universities to accept all major courses approved for transfer through IAI as equivalent major courses, insofar as a specific major is offered at the receiving institution. (Today, institutions may decide whether to count a course towards a major or as an elective, often requiring students to repeat coursework to count towards their major.) It clarifies that institutions must maintain up to four IAI courses in each IAI major (rather than in one IAI major). The bill also requires IBHE and ICCB to create a major panel for elementary and secondary education, which will review courses for statewide transfer consistency.
- Status: Public Act 103-0469