During the 2016-17 enrollment period the program sold approximately 443 new prepaid tuition contracts. Like last year, the general enrollment period took place during a period of significant challenges for the state, as a result of a two-year budget delay. The state’s budget crisis and specifically the delayed funding to public higher education institutions increased concerns about the future of higher education in the state. Those concerns likely had an impact on contract sales. Fortunately, a final state budget was approved on July 6, 2017.
The program continues to be in a stronger place than it was a few years ago. The funded status of the program has improved, tuition inflation has moderated, and we have continued to see interest in the program despite the state’s fiscal issues. That said, years of double digit tuition inflation, a recession, and the impact on sales of the state’s two-year budget delay have created challenges for the program.
As part of our ongoing efforts as stewards of College Illinois! funds, we have continued to work with elected officials to discuss potential legislative options that could strengthen the plan. At a recent hearing during which College Illinois! presented a program update, legislators noted that College Illinois! is a good program that has well served plan holders. Legislators expressed their interest in working together with College Illinois! to address program funding and get ahead of any future challenges the program may face.
Program enrollment for 2017-18 is currently on hold pending our continuing discussions with policy-makers to help define proposals that will strengthen College Illinois! and efforts to move those proposals forward in the legislative process.
For current plan holders, the program will continue to operate as usual with no change in benefit payment, customer service, or plan administration. All College Illinois! plans continue to be backed by the moral obligation of the state, and College Illinois! funds continue to be held in a separate trust fund that can only be used to pay plan benefits and for the cost of administering the program.
We look forward to working with policy makers to improve and strengthen College Illinois! on behalf of all our plan holders.
Program financial statements are available at http://www.collegeillinois.org/AboutCollegeIllinois/529Financials.html.