Funding to Improve the Employment Outlook for People with Disabilities

ARRA Funds to Pay for Community College Classes

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) today announced a new program to help people with disabilities pay for college. The IDHS Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) can offer up to $2,500 to help qualified individuals with disabilities with the costs associated with their education at 40 community colleges in Illinois. Up to $3 million is being made available for this purpose by DRS from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

"This is a wonderful opportunity to help qualified individuals with disabilities enhance their employment prospects by furthering their education," said Grace Hong Duffin, Acting Secretary of DHS. "Research has consistently demonstrated that the difference between getting a job and securing a meaningful career is access to higher education."

People with disabilities have an unemployment rate of approximately 70 percent. Many more are simply not in the labor force at all. DRS is working with the Illinois Community College Board and local community colleges in the state to reach out to qualified applicants with disabilities. The department has also developed a federally-funded public awareness campaign to encourage people with disabilities to participate in the program and to raise awareness of the services provided by DRS.

The DRS Community College Initiative will contribute up to $2,500 per year toward the cost of tuition and fees at an Illinois community college for qualified individuals with disabilities. DRS will make contributions for coursework leading to an associate's degree or to a technical certificate. Non-credit courses and adult education courses are not covered.

"By investing in the education of approximately 1,500 individuals, we will have a profound impact on these students' ultimate employment prospects" said Robert Kilbury, DRS Director and former recipient of Vocational Rehabilitation services. "Many of the community college students we fund through this ARRA initiative will be able to benefit from the regular Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program, and perhaps pursue a four year degree."

Interested persons may contact their local DRS office for details. More information is available on the IDHS web site on the ARRA VR Community College Initiative.