During the State fiscal year ended June 30, 2018, the College Illinois! Program paid out more than $125 million in plan benefits to over 10,800 beneficiaries. According to the June 30, 2018 actuarial report (issued November 8, 2018), plan assets totaled about $846.4 million, corresponding to a 73.3% funded ratio. (Note that actuarial reports necessarily represent a point in time and can change based on a variety of factors.)
Program enrollment was on hold for 2017-18, and it continues to be on hold pending discussions with elected officials to advance legislation that would strengthen the Program. The Program continues to operate as usual with no change in benefit payments, customer service, or plan administration. Those with beneficiaries in college continue to see benefit payments paid as usual. The Program retains a substantial investment portfolio in a separate trust fund to pay obligations for a number of years without requiring funding from the state. Based on the current actuarial soundness report, funds would be sufficient to cover payments through fiscal year 2025 even if the program never sold another contract.
The plan is backed by the moral obligation of the state, pursuant to which the Governor would request funding from the Illinois legislature sufficient to pay all program benefits during any year there is a current funding shortfall. Fulfilling the State's moral obligation would take a vote of the General Assembly, but to our knowledge such obligations have historically been honored.
ISAC staff is in ongoing discussions with elected officials regarding the status of the program and potential legislative options to address the financial challenges facing the program. In addition to formal presentations to the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee and the Higher Education Working Group, numerous individual and small group meetings/briefings have been held with the Governor’s office and members and staff of the General Assembly. During these meetings we have been able to provide background on the Program, highlight the financial challenges, and discuss various approaches to address the unfunded liability and strengthen the program.
We are encouraged by responses we have received that reflect an interest in addressing the issues facing College Illinois!. Indeed, in our meetings with legislators there has been consistent support for the state to honor all current contract obligations. While legislative action on complicated issues is not always a fast or simple process, we believe that important progress has been made in recent months to lay the groundwork for successful legislation. Our goal is to have sponsors file a bill that ultimately will be effective in addressing the issues, will further protect our plan holders, and will have the support needed to pass and get signed into law.
Program financial statements, including the 2018 Actuarial Soundness Report are available at http://www.collegeillinois.org/AboutCollegeIllinois/529Financials.html.