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CHICAGO – Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) joined the Senate Education and Higher Education Committees for a hearing focused on equitable funding and affordable models for free tuition for Illinois college students.

Wednesday’s hearing was the sixth hearing dedicated to education and workforce development, the second pillar of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ agenda to rid Illinois of systemic racism.

“We continue to see a trend where underfunding and budget cuts disproportionately leave Black students behind in attaining a college education,” Lightford said. “Our focus should be on ensuring that our state support is having a direct impact on closing the inequities that exist in college affordability.”

The committee was joined by its House counterparts to hear testimony from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, the Community College Board, Partnership for College Completion, Women Employed, Advance Illinois, Campaign for Free Tuition, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and Chicago State University.

“One of our goals is to develop and implement a funding model that puts our neediest students first, like we did with K-12 funding,” Lightford said. “Too many high school graduates are being deterred from seeking a higher education, not because they are not qualified, but because of financial strains. That is simply unacceptable and will continue to perpetuate the cycle of poverty.”

The agencies reviewed possible equitable funding models and reevaluated funding based on race and economic opportunity. The groups also discussed various funding models pertaining to free tuition, in addition to increasing the level and number of scholarships available for the Minority Teaching Initiative which would make higher education more affordable for minority students.

The next hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 28 at noon, will continue to focus on higher education.

Senate hearings can be watched live at https://ilga.gov/senateaudvid.asp.