Accelerate College proposal headed to governor

Updated 5/25/2016 4:22 PM
  • David McSweeney introduced the bill passed Wednesday allowing students to collect college credits while still in high school.

    David McSweeney introduced the bill passed Wednesday allowing students to collect college credits while still in high school.

A measure to help students save money and earn college credit while in high school is headed for the governor's desk.

Senate lawmakers Wednesday unanimously approved creating a statewide Accelerate College pilot program, sponsored by Sen. Michael Connelly, a Wheaton Republican.

Approved by House lawmakers in April, the proposal calls on community colleges to make courses available to high school students for free.

It was introduced by state Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican, modeled after Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300's Accelerate College program, which allows qualifying high school students to take a full-year of college classes tuition-free during senior year.

District 300 is partnering with Elgin Community College on its program, which allows eligible high school seniors to complete roughly half the required credits for a 60-hour, two-year associate degree in arts, science and applied science. District 300 covers the cost of tuition, but students are responsible for the cost of books and transportation. Upon graduation from high school, students can choose to complete their associate's program at ECC or transfer those college credits to any state college or university.

If signed into law, community college districts could voluntarily enter into an Accelerate College partnership with any school district within their respective boundaries. It also allows community colleges to charge fees, but limits it to actual operating costs and related student activities. Coursework completed by high school students in a community college would be transferrable to all public universities statewide.

"I've heard no opposition from the governor's office. I'm hopeful he will sign it no later than July," McSweeney said. "I'm hopeful that the program will start being implemented really quickly. Given our state's uncertain economic climate, we need to be looking at ways to reduce education costs and to help equip young people with the tools they need to succeed."

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