Program enrollment is on hold pending our continuing discussions with policymakers to help define and advance proposals that will address the College Illinois! plan’s unfunded liability and strengthen the Program.
For current plan holders, 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. While actuarial reports necessarily represent a point in time and could change, according to the June 30, 2017 actuarial reports, plan assets totaled about $951 million, corresponding to a 75% funded ratio, and would be sufficient to cover payments through 2024 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 has been communicating with elected officials for many months regarding the financial challenges faced by the Program and the importance of planning for future contract obligations. Numerous individual and small group meetings/briefings have been held between ISAC’s Executive Director and/or Director of Government Relations and the Governor’s office and members 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.
In addition to the individual and small group meetings, ISAC made a formal presentation at a public subject-matter hearing of the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee in August 2017 and to the General Assembly’s Higher Education Working Group in December 2017. We have also commented on the challenges facing College Illinois! during public appropriation hearings in the Senate and House.
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 Program’s challenges, will protect plan holders, and will have enough bipartisan support for passage.
Program financial statements, including the 2017 Actuarial Soundness Report are available at http://www.collegeillinois.org/AboutCollegeIllinois/529Financials.html.