VICTORY: ICIRR Applauds the House Higher Education Committee Passage of Student ACCESS Bill

May 11, 2016

VICTORY: ICIRR Applauds the House Higher Education Committee Passage of Student ACCESS Bill

(Springfield, IL--May 11, 2016)  By a 10-4 vote, the Illinois House Higher Education Committee has passed the Student Access Bill.

 The bill, which passed the Senate last month, will provide legal authority to 4-year public universities in Illinois to provide financial aid to undocumented students who enroll at their institutions.  Currently an estimated 1,500 students attend four-year public universities in Illinois. According to the National UnDACAmented Research Project, Illinois is home to approximately 140,400 undocumented young people under the age of 24, with the potential to attend a state college or university.

 Undocumented students are currently ineligible to receive federal student aid, Pell grants, Illinois MAP Grants, and other forms of state-based financial aid. However, federal law allows individual state legislatures to offer undocumented students eligibility for state financial aid. The Student ACCESS Bill would allow four-year public universities to offer financial aid to every student enrolled at their institution on a competitive basis. The legislation does not have a fiscal impact because it does not require the state to appropriate additional resources for higher education or increase spending for state-funded scholarship programs.    

 “As undocumented students, we go to desperate lengths to pay for our school,” said Laura Cholula, a student at Northern Illinois University. “If the ACCESS Bill were to become law, students would finally have some relief off their shoulders. Relieving some of the financial burden would help students focus their energies on other things, such as figuring out what they want to study in school, and not having to work as much because now they’re getting help from their universities and their communities in college.” 

 “I’m about to graduate, and this bill will help me get resources to go to college to study communications and achieve my dream of becoming a sportscaster,” said Jennifer Galan, a student leader with Enlace Chicago currently attending Little Village Lawndale High School.  “I’ve joined Enlace on trips to Springfield and even met with House Republican Leader Jim Durkin.  I’ve also been organizing my classmates to show their support.” 

 ICIRR has worked with a broad coalition of student leaders and other allies to move this legislation forward.  The bill now awaits a vote by the full Illinois House of Representatives, which could happen before the end of the General Assembly’s regular session on May 31.