Frequently Asked Questions


How many students would this apply to?

The University of Illinois at Chicago estimates that the Student ACCESS Bill would provide new scholarship opportunities for roughly 1,500 students across all 4-year public universities in Illinois.

How do you know there are 1,500 undocumented students at four year public universities?

Administrators from UIC reached out to each 4-year public university to acquire this information.

Won't this bill negatively impact students who are U.S. citizens? Will this bill create more competition for scarce resources for students who are U.S. citizens?

Thank you for asking these questions. There are approximately 144,000 students enrolled in IL 9 public universities. The University of Illinois at Chicago estimates that there are 1,500 undocumented students enrolled in our public universities. They account for only 1% of enrollment at those institutions. It is important to understand the scale of how this legislation would affect students in universities across the state.

These students already competed with each other to gain admittance to the university, they compete against each other every day in the classroom and with this bill they'd have an opportunity to compete with them for scholarship opportunities. Students who are citizens are already competing with 99 percent of their peers for institutional aid, this legislation would ass the remaining 1 percent to the mix. This legislation is not going to upend opportunities for our U.S. citizen students.

There are U.S. citizen students supporting this legislation on every campus. Many of them have been at the Capitol in past sessions and in the session to advocate for the bill. They understand that their friends and classmates deserve the same opportunities that they do, regardless of their citizenship status. 

Moreover, our universities don't see it this way. Every single 4-year public university in Illinois supports this legislation. They want the local control to support their already enrolled and admitted students.

Lastly, it's also worth noting that U.S. citizens are afforded a lot more opportunities for scholarships and financial aid, both public and private, on account of their citizenship status. As a matter of fact, undocumented students are currently ineligible to apply for federal student aid, Pell grants, Illinois' MAP grant and other forms of state-based financial aid. 

Didn't the state already pass legislation providing financial aid opportunities for undocumented students? Doesn't the Illinois Dream Fund provide financial aid?

Undocumented students currently have access to in-state tuition and they may apply for scholarships provided by the privately funded Illinois Dream Fund, which was created in 2011.

In 2014, 1,720 students applied for a scholarship through the Illinois Dream Fund. However, the Illinois Dream Fund was only able to award 26 students a scholarship ranging from $2,000-$6,000. Over the last three years, the program has only been able to assist 2% of applicants due to insufficient private resources. 

What role does the Illinois Board of Higher Education have in working with universities to decide how to structure the proposed changes in law?

None. While the Illinois Board of Higher Education supports this legislation, it has stated in committee that the administration of this law rests with the universities themselves. IBHE would have no role. 

How can the state provide financial aid to undocumented students when it doesn't have any money to pay universities?

The legislation does not place an unnecessary burden on universities. It provides them with the local control to determine how to support every student enrolled on their campus. 

Which other states have similar laws?

California, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas and Washington have enacted similar pieces of legislation. Data suggests that providing in-state tuition and access to financial aid increases the high school graduation and college enrollment rates of undocumented students. There are 18 states, including Illinois that provide undocumented students who meet certain criteria with access to in-state tuition. 

How would universities proceed if this legislation were to pass? Do you have an example of how this would be operationalized?

Universities and their respective boards if trustees would have the local control to determine how to administer changes to their scholarship programs. Given that universities have a wide-variety of scholarships, financial aid packages, awards and waivers, opportunities would look different at each university.

If passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, we expect that it would take Universities some time to adjust and that each would do so at their own pace – especially with the impasse forcing universities to do more with less. However, decisions about how to operationalize this change in the law would rest with each university's board of trustees, leadership and administrative officials.

Does the Governor support this legislation?

The Governor's official position is that it has no position. The Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis stated that the Governor's Office views this legislation as a matter of local control.

Is there bi-partisan support for this legislation among rank and file legislators in either chamber?

Students have met with Republican officials in each chamber of the General Assembly. Last year (2016), 2 House Republicans voted for a previous version of this bill int he House Higher Education Committee.

Why don't these students get documented?

If an opportunity to seek legal status were available, these students would use it. Unfortunately, many do not fall into the categories of immigrants who qualify. The most common ways to gain lawful status are: 

  • Through a close family relationship (parental, sibling or spousal) with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (green card holder). 

  • Through an employer sponsorship, generally based on education and works skills and experience, or

  • Through a humanitarian process, such as asylum (for people fearing persecution in their native country) or U-visas for crime victims.

Even those who qualify face long waits (as much as 23 years) and other obstacles, including restrictions that could prevent many undocumented immigrants who leave the U.S. to process their applications from returning to the U.S. for up to 10 years.

Most undocumented students have been recipients of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program during the past five years. While recently rescinded, DACA has enabled hundreds of thousands of immigrant youths to get protection from deportation and authorization to work, allowing them to move forward with their educations and careers and contribute to our nation. 

Why should I support the Student ACCESS Bill?

Many college students depend on some form of financial aid in order to complete their education. Students who work long hours or multiple jobs find it harder to succeed and complete their degrees. The state has already invested considerable resources in the primary and secondary education of undocumented students. Providing access to financial aid will help students complete their degrees, enter the workforce and ensure Illinois secures a return on its investment.