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Illinois House Passes Bill Aimed to Provide Students with Equitable Access to Financial Aid (RISE Act)

Illinois House Passes Bill Aimed to Provide Students with Equitable Access to Financial Aid (RISE Act)


Springfield, Ill. (April 11, 2019)—The Campaign for a Welcoming Illinois and the RISE Act Task Force comprised of universities, students, and immigrant rights organizations across the state applaud the Illinois House for voting 66-47 to approve the RISE Act (HB2691) today.


The RISE Act will help ensure equitable access to education, benefiting more than 3,000 African American, undocumented, and transgender students who would be eligible for financial aid consideration at all colleges and universities in Illinois.


“Retaining Illinois students and creating equitable access to colleges and universities is a moral imperative and benefits all residents in Illinois,” said Assistant Majority Leader Elizabeth “Lisa” Hernandez (D-24), chief sponsor of the RISE Act.


“Qualified and eligible black and brown students are facing unnecessary barriers to accessing higher education opportunities,” said Rep. Carol Ammons (D-103) chief co-sponsor of the RISE Act. “I’m proud to co-sponsor a bill that eliminates those significant barriers these students have faced.”


“This is a win for underrepresented students who without access to educational support are often forced to abandon their studies or leave the state,” said Tanya Cabrera, Assistant Vice Provost for Student Inclusion, University of Illinois-Chicago. “After years of working to ensure these protections, our communities, colleges, and universities are better equipped to respond to the needs of our students.”


Students, along with college and university representatives, led by the University of Illinois-Chicago, and organizations such as PASO-West Suburban Action Project and National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) have been actively leading and advocating for the bill as part of the larger Campaign for a Welcoming Illinois, a multi-year, coalition-led effort to advance the rights of black and brown communities.


“We applaud the efforts of leaders of the black and brown caucuses, especially Leader Hernandez, Leader Gordon Booth, and Rep. Ammons for recognizing and representing the needs of our diverse communities,” said Mony Ruiz-Velasco, executive director of PASO-West Suburban Action Project and board president of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). “This is a vital step forward in ensuring that all students in Illinois have equitable access to higher education.”


“Today, Illinois took a critical step toward ensuring equitable access to higher education for all Illinois residents, regardless of race, socioeconomic background, immigration status or gender identity,” said Julián Lazalde, Civic Engagement & Policy Analyst at NIJC. “This House vote is a direct result of unwavering effort and sacrifice by students and advocates committed to the ideal that a welcoming state for all is possible.”


“For many Trans students, they choose to not even file the FAFSA for fear of being outed and the consequences, safety, and civil rights concerns that might come with it,” said Myles Brady Davis, communications manager and press secretary for Equality Illinois. “College represents a fresh start, and today’s House passage of the RISE Act recognizes the rights of Trans students to have that start, too.”


Students across the state also share their experiences and the impact this new law could have on their lives:

  • Markel Ellis, first generation college student and former student at Malcolm X College: “I was blessed to be eligible for Pell and MAP grants to pay for my courses at MXC. I am at 62 credits but not all my credits will transfer and I won’t be considered a Junior by the time I have 75 credits. Finances are the only true barrier to me successfully completing my degree here in Illinois.”

  • Rowan Ewangan, first-generation college student, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: “I am a citizen of the United States and an immigrant from the Philippines. I am a transgender male. These simple realities of my life have caused uncertainty and fearfulness. When I filled out the FAFSA last year, I was confused about which gender to choose since my legal transition was not yet completed. My reported gender did not match my social security identification.”

  • Perla Santoyo, high school honors student, and current student at Morton Community College: “Despite being eligible for DACA, I knew I was not eligible to apply to FAFSA, or any state or institutional aid. I was embarrassed, depressed and doubting myself and my options. The stress, anxiety, the fear under this political climate is clear. That’s why the RISE Act, which embraces the diversity within Illinois, is a sign of hope that not all that we have fought for is in vain.”



The Campaign for a Welcoming Illinois is an alliance of more than 85 organizations that seeks to pass state-level legislation to ensure that immigrants can fully participate in our society. 



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