SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — When the Governor Pritzker signed the 2023 state budget into law on April 19, some of the things in the budget he signed were the largest investments in higher education in decades.

The budget included $2.24 billion for higher education, almost $250 million more than last year and the largest increase in 20 years. This includes a $122 million increase in the Monetary Award Program for need-based student grants, a $54.8 million increase in funding for public universities and a $13.2 million increase in funding for community colleges.

“We know access to education can change the trajectory of a student’s life, families’ lives, and their communities,” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. “Our administration is committed to opening doors for learners and ensuring they and our institutions of education are supported, and this budget reflects that. We are building the vision for affordable, equitable education.”

John Atkinson, Board Chair of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, also weighed in on the impact these increases will have.

“These historic investments in our state’s public universities, community colleges and recruitment and retention priorities will help ensure access to college is more equitable and that money is not a barrier for populations that have historically been denied the resources for obtaining the education needed for economic mobility,” Atkinson said. “A stronger, more skilled workforce will provide employers the diverse talent needed to foster a thriving Illinois.”

Something else that was included in the budget is a one-time $230 million payment that will eliminate the estimated unfunded liability for the state’s pre-paid tuition program, College Illinois. This will bring immediate relief to the nearly 25,000 contract holders who face uncertainty about the state’s ability to meet its fiscal obligations to participating students and families. The payment will also save the state $75 million over the long term.