After 11 years as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, in January of 2022, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) became the new home of IllinoisCAN (see letter from ISAC). Returning to a structure which provides IllinoisCAN with a backbone organization that can leverage capacity, expertise, and reach will allow the network that has been built through collaboration to continue and to grow into a truly statewide network. To honor the work that has taken place and motivate us to carry on with that work, below is a letter from IllinoisCAN founder Joan M. Klaus:

In 1998, college and career readiness professionals and related access organizations gathered to network on common interests under the title College and Career Readiness Network (CCRN).  Included in the original membership were non-profits, funding institutions, school counselors and college staff, neighborhood and community organizations and interested individuals.  The network met quarterly to discuss and debate issues relevant to college access, and to set priority actions that would address challenges faced specifically by first generation, low income students and families.  The goal of these early sessions was to create transformative thinking by educational institutions and related organizations about the special needs of these students.

Renamed Illinois College Access Network in 2003 to more closely align itself with the nationwide college access movement, Illinois CAN functioned for  several years as a subcommittee of the Education Workforce Quality Committee of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, which also housed operations of the Network.  In 2011, Illinois CAN incorporated itself as a free standing non-profit, currently serving more than 60 organizations and institutions, reaching more than 200 individuals dedicated to college access for all.

The Network’s focus has not changed over its nearly two decades of service.  Its strategic initiatives are targeted at improving the quality of higher education access and retention support services for those in most need of the guidance needed for success.   It does so by providing tools and information to access professionals who deal daily with students – inside schools, after school programs, institutions and organizations.  Illinois CAN is grateful to those already on the front lines of these initiatives, and invites all who have a commitment to improving college access and success to join it in meeting the ongoing challenges.

Joan M. Klaus
Founder, Illinois College Access Network