Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn celebrates with students and supporters after signing the Illinois Dream Act into law Monday at a Latino neighborhood high school in Chicago. | AP Photo/M. Spencer Green
Updated: August 2, 2011 2:26AM
CHICAGO — Illinois made it easier for illegal immigrants to pay for college when Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law Monday creating a privately funded college scholarship program.
“We say to all the people of our country and our state, we want everybody in and nobody left out,” Quinn, a Democrat, told a packed auditorium at a high school in a Latino neighborhood of Chicago. “Education is the key to opportunity in a democracy.”
The Illinois Dream Act creates a nine-member commission to establish scholarships for immigrant children with private donations, not taxpayer money. Quinn, who will appoint the commission members, was quick to personally pledge $1,000 to the fund.
The effort still requires fundraising before any scholarships can be awarded.
Immigrant children here legally and illegally can qualify if they attend an Illinois high school for at least three years and have at least one parent who immigrated to the United States.
Private scholarships are among the few ways that illegal immigrants can pay for college because they don’t qualify for government financial aid. Illinois already offers in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants at public universities.
The new law also lets anyone with a Social Security number or taxpayer identification number to enroll in state-run college savings programs. It also requires high school counselors to provide college information to immigrant children.