ClayborneFloor1SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Senate voted 51-4 approving the Lincoln Promise Zone Act, extending East St. Louis low-income students a new opportunity to attend community college.

“Promise zones provide one last line of defense for students who want to attend college but have absolutely no other options,” State Senator James Clayborne (D-Belleville) the proposal’s sponsor said. “I am glad that my fellow lawmakers recognize our obligation to provide students from disadvantaged communities additional opportunities to continue their education.”

The legislation, House Bill 194, permits the East St. Louis City Council to create a promise zone. Promise zones raise funds allowing qualified low-income public school students to be awarded full tuition scholarships for an associate degree at Southwestern Illinois College’s East St. Louis Community College Center.

Funds for the promise zone are gathered from businesses and private donors by a board made up of local educators, business leaders and appointed officials. By giving businesses and individuals a chance to meaningfully invest in students’ lives, Clayborne hopes these scholarships will promote much-needed educational and economic growth

“This program motivates students to stay in school and motivates parents—and businesses—to stay in the community,” Clayborne said.

Students are eligible for these scholarships if they meet specific residency requirements, attended East St. Louis public schools, have exhausted all other governmental funding opportunities and maintain performance standards while enrolled in college courses. Specific criteria are set by the local board of appointees.

House Bill 194 allows additional promise zones to be created in Rockford and Aurora. These three communities will serve as a pilot program for potential future expansion to other areas.

The House passed the proposal in February and it now goes to the governor’s desk.


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