While obtaining a college degree is increasingly vital to career advancement, low-income, racial minority and first-generation college students often struggle to transition into a college or university’s culture.
A plan led by Illinois Senate Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) that was signed into law on Friday seeks to ease the transition into college by allowing Illinois’ public universities to establish bridge programs. These programs would provide access, academic support and financial aid to underrepresented students.
“Our universities should be equipped to ensure the success of all students,” Lightford said. “Bridge programs create an opportunity for students who may have a tougher time adjusting to college by offering them support in areas often overlooked.”
House Bill 5696 requires each public university that establishes a bridge program to designate a full-time program director to establish guidelines and manage the program.
“Access is the first step to academic success that transforms lives. At the University of Illinois System, we are proud to provide the access to life changing experiences at our three universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield,” said University of Illinois System President Tim Killeen. “We’re proud to stand with Senate Assistant Majority Leader Lightford, House Higher Education Committee Chairman Welch and the broad coalition of legislators who shepherded this bill through the legislature.”
Bridge programs will be open only to Illinois residents, and priority will be given to applicants whose life patterns have been characterized by historical economic or cultural deprivation.
The law goes into effect immediately.