SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – State Rep. Elizabeth “Lisa” Hernandez, D-Cicero, is fighting to expand access to higher education, working with a diverse coalition of legislators, advocates, and university officials to ensure that state financial aid is available to all Illinois students regardless of race, immigration status or gender identity.
“In light of the exodus of talented young people leaving Illinois for other states, we must ensure that we are not only reinvesting in our colleges and universities but our young people, especially our minority youth,” Hernandez said. “This legislation is about equity for all students, ensuring that regardless of your race, immigration status or gender identity, you are valued and supported by our state.”
Hernandez’s House Bill 2691 would create the Retention of Illinois Students and Equity (RISE) Act to ensure financial aid equity for minority and marginalized young people. The legislation would expand access to state aid by increasing the credit hour limit in place that disproportionately locks out African-American and other people of color from state aid. In 2018, 1,700 students who applied for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant were denied because they had surpassed the current credit hour limit. Often times, students who come from inadequately funded schools districts have to take additional coursework to catchup to their peers, which is why they reach the credit hour threshold much quicker.
Hernandez’s RISE Act would also allow Illinois students who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, such as DACA recipients, to be eligible for state financial aid, as well as transgender students who do not register for required military purposes and as result are ineligible for federal aid. The measure was recently approved by the House Higher Education Committee.
“Higher education truly changes lives, positively impacts society, and enhances the rich fabric of our communities. We are committed to supporting the state legislature’s goals to enhance access, support, and opportunities for Illinois’ high school graduates to stay in the state for college,” University of Illinois System President Tim Killeen said.