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Important Updates From Your Government Relations Committee

Important updates from your Government Relations Committee

Joe Freeman
Beacon Academy

Evan Wilson
Illinois College

Emily Tabeek
Southern Illinois University Carbondale

This month we focus on two major initiatives underway. We are witnessing the advancement of legislation that will have major impacts on the students we serve at both the state and federal level. It is through that lens that we provide context on the RISE Act in Illinois and the College Affordability Act (CAA) taking shape in Washington. Your awareness and action on behalf of these two items will be critical over the next few months so we have attempted to report on key provisions that will help you get a sense of the issues. We invite you to learn more by utilizing the links provided.

The RISE Act was signed into law by Governor Pritzker at the conclusion of the spring legislative session and will go into effect January 1, 2020. It provides a mechanism for students who are unable to file the FAFSA to access state-based financial aid. This means that MAP Grant funds for 2020 will be available to undocumented students, transgender students who are not comfortable completing selective service registration, and more. IACAC was proud to be an early proponent of this legislation and we eagerly anticipate its launch. ISAC is in the process of creating a FAFSA-like form to capture appropriate information so as to determine eligibility.

On October 8, IACAC member and ISAC manager, Sara Espinosa, provided this update to IACAC members via email:

  • Rules for implementing the RISE Act have been proposed but are not yet final. They are expected to be effective January 1, 2020.
  • The RISE Act Application is under development. It is on track to be “live” when the bill becomes effective January 1, 2020.
  • At this time, ISAC’s message is that the FAFSA is the primary application for financial aid, and if students have questions about filing the FAFSA, they should speak with the financial aid office of the school(s) where they’re applying or enrolled. For students who meet the criteria of the RISE Act, the application will provide a pathway to apply for state financial aid. Information related to eligibility criteria for the RISE Act application can be found online under the “Eligible Students” section.
  • Updates on program implementation will be posted to the page linked above. As additional documents such as FAQs are developed, we plan to post those at the link, as well.
  • In light of the fact that implementation details are developing (and will continue to be developed after the bill takes effect), and with a keen understanding that each student’s situation is unique, we particularly encourage those working with students or media to avoid blanket statements regarding whether broad groups of students should or should not file a FAFSA. There are a variety of reasons why an individual student may or may not want to complete a FAFSA, and ISAC believes that this decision should be made by the student in conjunction with a counseling or financial aid professional who is working directly with the student.

College Affordability Act
In Washington, the topic of re-authorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) has been a political football that has generally led to upholding the status quo. A full re-authorization is more than ten years overdue and it appears that a comprehensive re-authorization is not only on the horizon but quickly coming into view. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) announced his proposal for the College Affordability Act on October 15. As membership organizations that represent student transitions to postsecondary education, NACAC and IACAC support this plan. This bill is likely to change before its passage so we will continue to watch its evolution. Because this bill is so comprehensive we strongly encourage IACAC members to become educated on the main pieces of this legislation.

Key provisions of the College Affordability Act
Enhancements to post-secondary financial aid options including:

  • FAFSA simplification guaranteeing Pell eligibility for students who have benefited from a means-tested federal program within the last two years;
  • A $500 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award;
  • The preservation of SEOG, including the new emergency grant funding for students in short term crisis;
  • The expansion of Federal Work Study; and
  • The reinstatement of the Perkins Loans Program
  • Allowance of Pell grants to be used for post-baccalaureate education
  • Grants to states who make their community colleges tuition-free and invest in public higher education
  • Authority for the Secretary of Education to broadly authorize accreditation standards for institutions of higher education
  • Removal of the ban on the creation of student unit record data collection
  • Creation of new reporting and compliance requirements for colleges intended to protect students’ safety and accessibility

Because of Democratic control in the House it is likely that this bill will move quickly out of committee. We encourage you to make your voice heard. Contact your members of Congress to voice your opinion.

You can be sure that your Government Relations Committee chairs and members are following the progress on both of these items, but don’t miss an opportunity to stay informed. We welcome any questions you might have about The RISE ACT in Illinois or the College Affordability Act.

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