college changes everythingThe 2017 College Changes Everything Conference was held July 20 at the Tinley Park Convention Center, with record participation by over 500 attendees. Sponsored by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), the conference annually provides in-depth information and resources regarding post-secondary readiness, access and attainment. This year’s theme of equity focused on closing opportunity and achievement gaps, inclusivity, student engagement, and cultural responsiveness.

Keynote speaker Kyle Reyes serves as Special Assistant to the President for Inclusion at Utah Valley University (UVU). He provided many practical and compelling examples of ways that post-secondary programs can move beyond optimistic slogans to actual inclusive practices that have highly positive effects on student attainment and life outcomes.

Interest sessions throughout the day spanned the Pre-K through adult learning spectrum, ranging from early childhood education practices that prepare students to succeed beyond high school to career exploration tools and regional workforce projections. Attendees included Pre-K-12 educators, post-secondary educators, administrators, guidance counselors, agency and not-for-profit organization staff, and state and local policymakers. The conference was staffed by members of the ISACorps, recent college graduates who serve as mentors to help high school students and their families apply to and enter college.

Along with ISAC, the annual conference is planned by staff at the Illinois Board of Higher Education, Illinois Community College Board, Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Illinois College Access Network, Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities, Advance Illinois, Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University, Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University, Generations Serving Generations, ACT Now, and Women Employed.