SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS (March 3, 2023) — State Representative La Shawn K Ford, Chairman of the Illinois House Appropriations Higher Education Committee, announced his proposal to provide Illinois public university students with free access to classes that prepare them for graduate-school tests and professional-licensing exams.
Rep Ford (D-Chicago), a former Chicago Public Schools teacher, said he will pursue funding in the state’s fiscal year 2024 budget for the effort.
“Research has shown that traditionally underserved students have been locked out of opportunities because of poor or non-existent preparation for critical graduate-school and professional-licensure exams,” Rep Ford said “This holds us back as a nation and continues to lock the doors of opportunity to some truly great talent in our state. The time of inaction and ignoring the truth must end in Illinois. As Chairman of the Higher Education Appropriations Committee, I will examine solutions to support students seeking test prep to understand better how to better compete and overcome fears and challenges of exams. Illinois has a shortage of teachers, doctors, and nurses, and many more professional roles — and giving students that can't afford exam preparation free classes is one solution to grow these professions in our state.”
Rep Ford appeared at a press conference with Brandon Busteed, a national expert on education and workforce development. Busteed is Global Head of Learn-Work Innovation at Kaplan, a global education-service provider.
Busteed said Historically Black Colleges and Universities such as Howard University and regional public universities such as Cleveland State University have successfully used universal free exam prep for their students. At Cleveland State, 266 students have already signed up for universal exam prep, saving students $328,000. Of those 266 students, 45 percent are low income and 44 percent are First Generation college students, which means they are the first in their family to go to college.
“Comprehensive, free exam prep is key to increasing access and helping disadvantaged students achieve better graduate school and career outcomes,” Busteed said. “I applaud Rep Ford for his efforts to create better opportunities for low income and minority students.”
Prior to the press conference, Rep Ford and Busteed both provided testimony and took questions at a hearing of the Illinois House Appropriations Higher Education Committee.