Governor Pat Quinn today signed historic legislation to increase education opportunities to children of immigrants in Illinois. The Illinois DREAM Act creates a privately-funded scholarship program for high school graduates from immigrant families who wish to attend college.
"All children have the right to a first-class education," Governor Quinn said. "The Illinois DREAM Act creates more opportunities for the children of immigrants to achieve a fulfilling career, brighter future and better life through higher education."
Senate Bill 2185, sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Rep. Eddie Acevedo (D-Chicago), establishes a nine-member Illinois DREAM Fund Commission to manage the program, whose members are appointed by the Governor. The commission will help establish privately-funded scholarships for students who have resided with their parents while attending high school in Illinois, earned their high school diploma, attended school in Illinois for at least three years, and have at least one parent who immigrated to the United States.
In addition, the new law allows any person with a Social Security or taxpayer identification number to participate in a state-operated college savings pool. It also requires high school counselors to provide college information to all children of immigrants. Children of immigrants will have unprecedented opportunities to access higher education as a result of the Illinois Dream Act.
"We should be opening, not shutting doors of opportunity for young students regardless of how or why they are living in Illinois," said President Cullerton. "This new law moves the state beyond the rhetoric of equal opportunity by making the dream of a college education a reality for more of Illinois' outstanding students."
The new law was one of Governor Quinn's top priorities during the spring legislative session. The Governor recognized that it would ensure that Illinois continues to lead the nation in increasing access to top-quality education, which is critical to retaining our best and brightest students and ensuring our continued success in the competitive global economy.
Students, community leaders and elected officials from across the state joined Governor Quinn to celebrate the new law that brings more affordability and better access to higher education in Illinois.
"Immigrants are a driving force in our city's cultural and economic life, and opening the way for all Chicago students to earn an excellent higher education will make our city even stronger," said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "I am proud that families and students across Illinois will now have a better shot at the American Dream -- which starts with a great education."
With an estimated 65 percent of immigrant students coming from households earning below 200 percent of the poverty line, the financial barriers to higher education for academically qualified immigrant students are steep. Through the DREAM commission, Illinois leaders will now be able to raise private funds to help these students achieve their full potential.
"We thank Governor Quinn for his continuous support and his tireless work for the immigrant community," said Lawrence Benito, Deputy Director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). "The signing of this bill into law is historic and it confirms that Illinois is not only an immigrant-friendly state but also a national leader on moving fair, humane, and practical solutions."
The DREAM Act passed with bipartisan legislative support and with the strong support of the education community. The commission will provide training to school service personnel and work with admission and financial aid officers and high school counselors across Illinois to help students utilize the wide array of higher education opportunities.
"The Illinois DREAM Act is a crucial step in the right direction, ensuring that worthy students are no longer denied the life-changing opportunity of college simply because their immigration status puts needed financial aid out of reach," said University of Illinois President Michael J. Hogan. "I'm grateful to our legislators and Governor Quinn for supporting the shared vision that bright minds are our most precious resource and must be cultivated, not thwarted by outdated immigration laws."