College Access Bill passes Illinois General Assembly

SB190 received bipartisan support and passed both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly unanimously.

By Niya K. Kelly, Director of State Legislative Policy, Equity and Transformation 

We encourage youth to reach beyond their present to change their circumstances, but often overlook impediments preventing them from reaching their dreams. A bill designed to remove these impediments and deliver the assistance necessary for students experiencing homelessness to successfully complete their education – SB190 –unanimously passed the Illinois House on May 21, after passing the Senate in April.  

Many students experiencing homelessness who enroll in higher education share similar stories of getting to college and feeling overwhelmed. In high school, they had a liaison who assisted with fee waivers, transportation, and pointed them to services in the community, but for most this does not exist at the college level.  

With the assistance of Christy Savellano, Law Project Intake Specialist and CCH Scholarship Progam Manager, we gathered a group of CCH scholarship recipients to share their perspectives and offer solutions during a listening session in 2019. They expressed struggles with applying for financial aid, finding housing, and identifying staff on campus who can answer their questions. Overall, students shared that they felt alone, and that there was an expectation that they should be able to make it without asking for help. This conversation inspired what became SB190 – College Access for Students Experiencing Homelessness (Sen. Glowiak-Hilton and Rep. West).  

SB190 does a few things: 

  • It creates a liaison on campus, housed in the Financial Aid, Bursar, or Student Life Department. 
  • The liaison is required to participate in a training created by the CCH Law Project.  
  • Students experiencing homelessness will have priority in applying for on-campus housing.  
  • If the school remains open during breaks, with housing available to athletes and international students, the same opportunity will be afforded to students experiencing homelessness.  
  • And universities and colleges will be required to track data on the number of students experiencing homelessness on campus and their completion rates.  

In talking to our scholarship recipients, we confirmed what we already knew: with supports similar to those provided in K-12 schools, these students can continue to succeed at the college level. The data collection portion of the legislation is imperative because both schools and students need to know that these students are not an anomaly. National numbers show that over 20% of youth experiencing homelessness enroll in higher education. Schools cannot disregard these students’ existence and the value they bring to their institutions.  

Making its way through the Senate and the House this spring, the bill received bipartisan support and passed through each chamber unanimously. It will now head to Governor Pritzker’s office for his signature.  CCH is excited to work on implementation and celebrate students receiving the supports they are entitled to.