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Gov. Rauner enacts adult high school legislation

Governor Bruce Rauner today signed HB 2527, amending the Illinois School Code to allow adults without high school degrees to acquire high school diplomas and allow for the creation of quality adult diploma programs.

“Illinoisans of every age should have access to quality educational programs that give them a second chance at life,” Gov. Rauner said. “This legislation will open doors of opportunity for adult learners who want to achieve better careers and higher wages, and it will also help address the large educational disparity in minority communities.”

HB 2527 will amend the Illinois School Code to allow for more flexibility compared to the current age restriction that prevents adults over the age of 21 who did not finish high school from receiving a high school diploma. Prior to this legislation, a GED was the only option available to adult learners without high school degrees for obtaining high school equivalency. This law will allow adults of any age to acquire high school diplomas through certified programs run by community colleges or eligible nonprofit entities, such as Goodwill Excel Centers. A diploma is more advantageous than a GED because it equips adults with better skills for postsecondary education and the workplace.

“Obtaining a high school diploma is the bare minimum needed in today’s modern workplace environment. So many dreams are unreachable for those who lack a high school degree. It was an honor to work so closely with our sponsors and regional stakeholders to pass this law,” said Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti. “This new law will for the first time give adults in Illinois the ability to earn a full-fledged high school diploma. It gives hope that no matter your age, educational opportunities are available to everyone in our great state.”

“With the signing of this new law, adult students of all ages will have the opportunity to obtain a high school degree and climb the ladder of success,” said Rep. Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford), the chief sponsor of the bill. “This law paves the way for the creation of Excel centers, which will open doors to personal growth and career advancement for adult learners through the success of the program established by our friends at Goodwill of Northern Illinois. Students will be able to not only receive their high school diploma, but also the potential obtain a Career and Technical Education certificate.”

Around 1 million Illinoisans lack a high school diploma or GED. According to figures reported by Statistical Atlas based on 2015 U.S. Census Data, 13 percent of Illinois adults aged 25 or older do not possess a high school diploma. Unfortunately, the data shows certain minority populations are disproportionately represented in not possessing high school equivalency credentials. Respectively, 14.9 and 18.8 of female and male African-Americans, and 37.5 and 39.9 percent of female and male Hispanic residents are without a high school degree in Illinois.

HB2527 will open the door for more programs like the Goodwill Excel Center opening in Rockford. Modeled from the successful program in Indiana, Excel Centers allow adult learners to earn high school diplomas, and take Career and Technical Education classes and dual-enrollment credits. Excel Center graduates achieve markedly higher wages than adults without high school diplomas.

“Many people take for granted the value of a high school diploma, but it is one of the most basic requirements for most jobs,” said Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford). “This will help a countless number of adults who are working hard to rebuild and move forward toward better lives and careers.”

“A high school diploma is nearly essential in today’s world, but not everyone is able to complete high school in the same amount of time,” Sen. Stadelman (D-Rockford) said. “These programs will give people a second chance and help them obtain job skills. Everyone benefits in the end, because a trained workforce is good for economic development in our communities.”

According to U.S. Census data reported in 2012, “In 2009, 16.9 million adults earned a GED certificate to satisfy their high school requirements. While 73 percent of those who received a high school diploma went on to complete at least some postsecondary education, less than half (43 percent) of GED certificate recipients did so. Furthermore, only 5 percent earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. In contrast, of high school diploma holders, 33 percent earned this level of education.” Additionally, high school diploma holders earned approximately $4,700 in mean monthly earnings compared with GED certificate holders, who earned $3,100.