Illinois’ FY24 budget was full of investments for education; $250 million investment in the Governor’s Smart Start initiative to expand access to early childhood education, an additional $350 million for Evidence-Based Funding to ensure each and every Illinois’ student receives a high-quality education, and an increase of $100 million for Monetary Award Program (MAP) scholarships to make college a reality for everyone.
These funds are historic investments in Illinois’ students, but I am most excited about a smaller but no less historic appropriation for Dual Credit course expansion. The budget included $3.15 million for the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) for Dual Credit grants and administration, the state’s first ever Dual Credit appropriation. These funds will help expand access to underserved populations and support teachers as they complete the coursework needed to be fully credentialled to teach these rigorous college-level courses.
Since these grants will be brand new, the ICCB now has the opportunity to develop details of how the funds will be allocated. There’s no shortage of critical places of investment to promote equitable Dual Credit access up and down Illinois, including funding for:
- Teachers to complete coursework required to complete a Professional Development Plans. Student interest in Dual Credit coursework has continued to outpace the number of available instructors. To help districts meet growing student demand the state allows interim-qualified instructors to teach Dual Credit if they start a Professional Development Plan and complete the necessary coursework to be fully qualified within three years. The ICCB could offer competitive grants to high school districts with limited Dual Credit course offerings and enrollments to assist teachers with the cost of continuing education to be fully credentialled.
- Reduced course costs for students. Some schools shield students from the cost of Dual Credit courses by picking up the tab for Dual Credit coursework, others cannot afford to do so. This creates deeps inequities around who can access these important courses. Grants can help level the playing field by offering formula grants to underfunded districts with Dual Credit programs to help offset the course costs, textbooks, and additional fees.
- Expanded course access across the state. Research tells us that high school students presented with opportunities to access college coursework are more likely to go to and through college. The opportunity for Dual Credit should be available to all Illinois students regardless of their zip code, but barriers remain as funding inequities among districts persist. Competitive grants to districts could help tackle these barriers and improve equity, helping schools expand existing programs, develop new ones, or provide additional student and programmatic support funding activities, like student wrap around services, schoolwide placement testing, workshops to embed dual credit into the curriculum and CTE pathways, and Dual Credit advisory councils to engage administrators, instructors, and higher learning partners.
Stand will continue to engage the ICCB and Dual Credit stakeholders to ensure these new funds break down barriers and expand equitable access for educators and students alike. Interesting in knowing more about Dual Credit opportunities in your district? Visit Stand’s Dual Credit Advocacy Toolkit to learn more.