Updated Guide to Public Benefits in Illinois Will Help Postsecondary Students Get Ahead

You shouldn’t have to choose between making rent and making it to class or training, between putting food on the table and putting yourself in a position for a bright future, between getting by and getting ahead.

But unfortunately, these are the tough decisions that many students pursuing postsecondary degrees or job training have to make. And though most postsecondary students find it tough to support themselves, nontraditional students, including students who have dependents or who did not enter school immediately after high school, face particularly acute financial struggles.Take those enrolled in college: 71% nationwide work full or part time, and over half come from low-income households.  

Postsecondary education can be particularly challenging for women. About one out of every three woman enrolled as an undergraduate is raising a child, and women account for 81% of undergraduates who are low-income, single-parents. Juggling class or job training with work is an arduous and expensive venture in and of itself — but the added personal and financial responsibilities of parenting make it even more difficult and costly. 

Squeezed by the grind to make ends meet, many will be forced to drop out of school or discontinue job training, jeopardizing their future employment prospects and opportunities for upward mobility.

Public benefits can, and often do, serve as a critical resource for struggling students. Research has shown — time, time, and time again — that students with access to financial support are much more likely to graduate because they are able to dedicate more time to learning and less to stressing over bills.

The Shriver Center’s new publication, Getting Ahead: An Adult Student’s Guide to Public Benefits in Illinois, is intended to help struggling students get the help they need. The Guide offers information on eligibility and how to apply for a variety of benefits available to adult students. Benefits covered include SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), healthcare, Child Care, and housing benefits, among others. The Guide also includes a section with tips on how students can better advocate for themselves and protect their right to the public assistance they need.

This updated version of the Guide is published online and has been redesigned to be more accessible and user-friendly. Now, students can find the resources they need more quickly, even on a mobile phone. A PDF of the full text is also available for download.

We invite you to pass Getting Ahead: An Adult Student’s Guide to Public Benefits in Illinois on to any students, educators, school counselors, administrators, or social service providers who may need guidance. We also encourage colleges, universities, job training providers, and other social service organizations to post the Guide on their sites.

It could be the difference, for many, between being held back and getting ahead. 

If you have any questions about how to use the guide, please email studentguide@povertylaw.org.  

Trevor Brown contributed to this blog post. 

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