Illinois policymakers are taking several steps to address the burden of student loans by rounding out financial aid offerings to include supplemental aid for food, a student loan bill of rights, and post-college debt relief aid.

House Bill 3211 SNAP Benefits

This bill targets low-income community college students who are food insecure. About 48 percent of students report a lack of access to food. This bill ensures those students will get information about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for which they may be eligible, based on income information from the FAFSA.

The Illinois  Student Assistance Commission will inform community colleges of potentially eligible students electronically. In addition to eligibility information, they will also receive the Application for Benefits Eligibility website address and the Illinois Hunger Coalition’s Hunger Hotline number. The college will reach out to students directly with this information and help them take steps to enroll in SNAP if eligible.

House Bill 3211 passed in both the house and the senate.

Senate Bill 1351 Student Loan Servicing Rights Act

This bill does three things to protect student borrowers:

  1. Enacts a Student Loan Bill of Rights to provide information to students on how servicers interact with borrowers. It also regulates the information servicers give to students, such as options for repayment and details of payments (e.g., where to send payments, payment history).
  2. Establishes a Student Loan Ombudsman to provide assistance to student borrowers. They also compile and analyze data, including borrower complaints, and recommend changes to student loan policies.
  3. Allows the Secretary of Financial and Professional Regulation to investigate and monitor student loan servicer licenses.

The Student Loan Servicing Rights Act passed both the senate and the house.

House Bill 1316 College Affordability Act

The College Affordability Act provides financial assistance and loan debt relief Illinois students. The goal is to keep reduce student debt and keep students in Illinois to contribute to the local economy (other states are doing this as well).

This act includes three programs:

  1. College Affordability Grants for low-income freshmen. To receive these grants, Illinois students must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 upon graduating high school. They must also remain in state for two years after graduating college. If they move, the grant will turn into a loan with no interest.  
  2. Work-study Fund. Students who receive a College Affordability Grant are eligible for Work-study funds if they provide tutoring services to others in the grant program.
  3. College Affordability Fund. For students who attended a public college and took out private student loans, the Commission will buy out their private student loans and set the interest for repayment at zero percent. Eligible borrowers
    • graduated from a public college before the 2018-2019 school year with GPA of at least 3.0, and
    • are currently paying federal student loans on income-based payment plan.

These programs would all start in the 2018-2019 school year.

The College Affordability Act passed the house and is awaiting action in the senate.