New Law Gives Students Better Access to Higher Education

Photo by digitalskillet/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by digitalskillet/iStock / Getty Images

The Institute for Higher Education Policy estimated that for low- and middle-income families unable to take out loans, 70 percent of U.S. colleges were unaffordable.  This is a state of emergency for higher education.

A new law signed by Governor Rauner is helping students with aspirations for college lift the financial load.  The law prohibits school boards from placing caps on dual-credit courses - allowing high school students to take classes for college credit without limitation.


“Now our students can get degrees earlier and at lower cost to their family,” Rauner said during the signing. Senate Bill 2527 received unanimous bipartisan support.

These dual-credit courses are invaluable to students who hope to save money on a college degree. They also allow students to move faster through their college education by graduating early, or to fulfill challenging degree requirements in a more manageable number of years.

“Earning college credit in high school may mean completing college in less time and that, in turn, could significantly lessen the financial burden for students and their families,” Rauner said. “It could also hasten General Education Core Curriculum (GECC) completion and entry to community colleges.”

Rauner noted that dual-credit courses allow students to explore their interests before reaching college, to discover whether a career path is right for them without the financial stress.

“This new law will help boost degree completion rates and help cut costs for students,” said Senator Chuck Weaver, R-Peoria, a proponent of the legislation.

Dual-credit courses prepare students early for the rigors of college, and according to the bill, the courses must be taught by instructors who meet Dual Credit Quality Act requirements. With the signing of SB 2527, students who are prepared for these courses may take as many as they feel comfortable taking.

The bill takes effect January 1, 2019.

“Every credit a student can earn…makes a difference.”

Women Working for Change spoke to teachers, parents, students, and former students in Springfield to discuss how the new law will impact the educational system. All of the interviewees agreed: this legislation is a positive change.

“I am happy to hear that Governor Rauner has signed this bill,” said Allison Herbst, a teacher and mother. “I hope more dual-credit courses are offered at the high schools in the area. With the high expense of colleges and universities, every credit a student can earn prior to finishing high school makes a difference.”

“I don’t know why there would be a cap in the first place,” said Anna McFarland, a college grad and mother. She also noted she is “all for offering more dual-credit classes.”

One of the primary reasons individuals supported the bill was the higher-education tuition costs it can save students.

“I think it’s a good idea,” said college grad Marty Paul. “If [students] could take college-level classes earlier and save money on a degree, it will definitely benefit them.”

The bill also prevents schools from limiting which students may participate in dual-credit online learning programs.

“It will help prepare students for college,” noted college student Anne Sherrick.

The bipartisan enthusiasm for SB 2527—and its support among students and former students—demonstrates the bill’s promising future.

As Herbst said, “By offering these dual credit courses at the high school level…it is a great benefit to families and students.”

hayley bierkle