SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford, D-Chicago, chair of the Illinois House Higher Education Appropriations Committee, today said the State of Illinois will soon announce a new program to fully provide public university students with free and universal test and licensure preparation classes. Illinois is the first state to offer this benefit to its public university students.

Rep. FordThe Prepare for Illinois’ Future Program offers comprehensive test preparation and professional licensure preparation at no cost to Illinois public university students. This means all students will have access to key resources, enabling them to best prepare for the required exams needed to advance to graduate school and/or professional exams vital in school-to-work pathways. The fiscal year 2024 State of Illinois budget includes $10 million for free test prep classes for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). The program also offers Free Professional Licensure Preparation for Nursing, Teaching, Real Estate, and Securities Professional Exams.

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The Prepare for Illinois’ Future Program – sponsored by Rep. Ford -- passed in May as part of the final fiscal year 2024 budget plan. The budget took effect on July 1, 2024, and Ford said he has been collaborating regularly with officials from the Governor’s Bureau of the Budget, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, and the Chief Procurement Office to implement the program. Ford expects the state will soon officially issue a Request for Proposal.

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“Because graduate school rolling admissions cycles start in early summer, most students use the winter and spring to study for their respective entrance tests. For example, 57% of first-time LSAT test takers sit for the April exam, and in general, January is the most popular month to sign up for some type of test prep,” Ford said. “Illinois universities tell me they are ready to implement the program in January.

“This program will save Illinois public university students hundreds of thousands of dollars and improve their chances to apply and attend professional and graduate school, and ultimately increase the talent and workforce pipelines critical to the State of Illinois,” Ford added.

Ford said multiple universities in other states – such as Cleveland State University and a number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities—that have implemented universal, free test preparation have already seen positive results. Students at Cleveland State saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and actively contributed to minimizing critical workforce shortages.

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