SPRINGFIELD – An effort to aid students in low-income communities in Illinois, including Rockford, through private funding passed the Senate today. State Sen. Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) co-sponsored the measure creating the Lincoln Promise Zones Act giving local governments the authority to establish Promise Zones and raise the necessary funding.

"A Promise Zone will give incentive for families of all financial backgrounds to stay or relocate in Rockford," Stadelman continued. "Rockford Public School commissioned Northern Illinois University to determine the return of investment in promise zones and NIU found that for every dollar invested in the Rockford College-for-All program, an estimated $132 would be generated in supplemental lifetime earnings."

Rockford joins East St. Louis and Aurora in the pilot program for Promise Zones in Illinois over the next five years. Each of the three communities will create a board made up of local educators, business leaders and appointed officials to supervise funds for the Promise Zone gathered from private donors. Promise Zones allow certain low-income public school students to be awarded full tuition scholarships for an associate degree at Rock Valley Community College.

Illinois will join 12 states with similar "college for all" programs with the creation of Promise Zones.

"Education, and especially higher education, allows for a trained workforce that keeps Illinois competitive with the rest of the nation so we will see a boon in the Rockford economy with the help of a Promise Zone," Stadelman said.

The measure, House Bill 194, now moves to Gov. Pat Quinn for his signature.