Public Accountability Report Public Accountability Report

Illinois Student Assistance Commission
(Appropriated Spending in Thousands)
  FY 2021 FY 2020
Reporting Programs Expenditures Headcount Expenditures Headcount
Scholarship and Grant Programs $ 523,127.1 63.0 $ 495,143.5 63.0
Student Loans $ 68,994.7 67.0 $ 97,653.6 73.0
Outreach $ 12,407.4 53.0 $ 12,494.9 47.0
Prepaid Tuition Program $ 1,776.4 16.0 $ 1,875.2 16.0
Totals $ 606,305.6 199.0 $ 607,167.2 199.0

Amounts may not sum to total due to rounding.

Agency Narrative

Since its inception in 1957, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) has been committed to helping make postsecondary education accessible and affordable for students throughout Illinois. ISAC provides comprehensive, objective, and timely information on college and financial aid for students and their families, giving them access to the tools they need to make the educational choices that are right for them. Then, through the state’s flagship Monetary Award Program (MAP) and other scholarship and grant programs ISAC operates, ISAC can help students make those choices a reality.

ISAC continues to advance its mission through the agency’s support of the statewide goal of postsecondary education completion, to “increase to 60% the proportion of adults with a postsecondary degree or credential by 2025.” In conjunction, ISAC is working to increase the postsecondary completion rate of low-income Illinois students. ISAC offers a comprehensive array of programs and services for Illinois students and families, particularly for low-income and first-generation students, to assist them in navigating the college and financial aid process. It also manages most of the key state grant and scholarship programs available to postsecondary students in Illinois, helping to ensure millions of dollars of aid are appropriately awarded to qualified applicants. In addition, the agency manages loan repayment and forgiveness programs. ISAC also operates the state’s 529 prepaid tuition program. Program enrollment has remained closed since 2017, but the program continues to operate as usual for our current contract holders, with no change in benefit payments, customer service, or plan administration. The budget bill signed by the Governor in June 2021 began to address the program’s unfunded liability by providing payments for fiscal year 2021 and fiscal year 2022, the first two of a proposed series. ISAC will continue to advocate for annual funding until the full unfunded liability is addressed.

Illinois’ largest need-based grant program is MAP. The fiscal year 2021 MAP appropriation of $451 million served more than 139,900 Illinois students, helping them meet tuition and fee costs at community colleges, public universities, and private institutions. MAP recipients represented approximately 27% of undergraduate students at MAP-eligible schools. The effective fiscal year 2021 maximum MAP award was $5,340, representing about 33% of the fiscal year 2021 mean-weighted tuition and fees amount of $16,333 at an Illinois public university. The average taxable income of families eligible for fiscal year 2021 MAP grants was about $27,300. In fiscal year 2021, the agency was able to offer MAP awards to about 90% of eligible applicants; 63% of those students accepted a MAP grant.

Although it no longer originates loans, ISAC has guaranteed billions in federally reinsured loans for qualified students and parents, manages a loan portfolio, and works with borrowers to both avert loan default and to rehabilitate defaulted loans. With the elimination of the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program in 2010, ISAC’s loan portfolio continues to wind down. Because ISAC's legacy system is not able to support the critical federal relief measures required to be provided to defaulted FFEL Program loan borrowers during the pandemic, ISAC made the decision earlier this year to cease operations as a guaranty agency under the FFEL Program. ISAC is currently working with the successor guarantor designated by the U.S. Department of Education to transition its remaining FFEL loans.

One of ISAC’s primary functions is outreach intended to help families navigate the postsecondary education and financial aid process. Each year, the ISACorps, a talented group of recent college graduates who are trained to serve as near-peer mentors to high school students, provides statewide support to students and families at college fairs, workshops, and other outreach events, as well as through one-on-one mentoring. ISAC readily adapted to serve students and families during the COVID-19 pandemic and has continued to work with families both virtually and in person. In addition, ISAC conducts numerous professional development and training sessions that reach hundreds of ISAC partners annually, including high school counselors, advisors, and college financial aid administrators. As with student and parent services, these training sessions are provided virtually and in person.

ISAC’s website continues to provide in-depth information for students and families to help guide them through the postsecondary education and financial aid process. The agency’s award-winning online Student Portal offers students free tools and resources to make more informed choices about college and financial aid, find scholarships, improve financial literacy, and even find jobs and other career resources. A library of videos developed by ISAC, posted on the Student Portal and social media on a regular basis, provide students and parents with quick, accessible, and easily digestible information about college planning and financial aid. A free text messaging service allows students to get answers to their college and financial aid questions sent directly to their phones.

ISAC is also the state grantee for a seven-year Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant, a federal discretionary grant program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. Over the course of the seven-year grant, which was awarded in late 2016, ISAC and its program partners are using a cohort model to provide direct services to as many as 30,000 students in 19 middle schools and 19 high schools across Illinois.

Students are always the number one priority at ISAC. College costs continue to rise, and the need for a workforce with postsecondary training continues to grow. ISAC remains committed to providing Illinois students with information and assistance to help make education beyond high school accessible and affordable.

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