Paying for Integrated Pathways: Illinois’ Performance-Based Funding System

Published mar. 13, 2015

This post explores another example in our series about state funding solutions to support integrated career pathways. Work like this is part of our Accelerating Opportunity initiative, which leads more underserved learners through Adult Basic Education to a credential of value in the labor market through these pathways. Our previous post covered Washington’s use of SNAP E&T funds to support education and job training for low-income adults. 

For more information, read about why it is important to create a policy environment that is conducive to the success of programs like Accelerating Opportunity and why state-level solutions for support like this one are so critical. 


In 2011, Illinois’ General Assembly mandated the implementation of a performance-based funding system that allots a portion of community college funding based on student progression. The state financially rewards colleges for reaching specific weighted indicators—“momentum points”—of student progress along the path to graduation, with certain momentum points reimbursed at higher rates depending on their level of importance.

  Measures for Performance-Based Funding
  in Illinois
  • Degree and certificate completion
  • Degree and certificate completion for at-risk students
  • Transfer to a four-year institution
  • Advancement in remedial and Adult Basic Education
  • Transfer to a community college
  • Momentum points toward those outcomes

  Source: Illinois Community College Board

Illinois took the unusual, and laudable, step of incorporating adult education into their momentum points as well, with an explicit goal of rewarding colleges that help adult basic education (ABE) students’ transition into postsecondary classes. The funding formula includes indicators that incentivize student enrollment in these models including:

  • Completion of 12 credit hours for first-time and part-time students
  • Completion of 24 credit hours in the first year for first-time and full-time students
  • Completion of one grade level for ABE students.

(The 12-credit target is based on Washington state’s Tipping Point research.)

The funding system is based largely on existing data points collected by Illinois colleges (e.g., credit hours, completion rates) and is designed to avoid creating a culture of competition between institutions. Instead, the momentum points encourage colleges to compete against their own performance and aim for continuous improvement.

In addition to rewarding colleges that invest in the success of adult education students, Illinois also has efforts underway to address the sustainability of integrated pathways programs in structural ways. For example, Illinois now requires ABE programs competing for state funding to incorporate or have plans for developing “bridge” programs linking ABE to postsecondary programs. The intention is to encourage the expansion of accelerated contextualized career pathways programs like Accelerating Opportunity. In addition, the Illinois Community College Board provides these programs with intense coaching and technical assistance around creating and maintaining the bridge programs.


To learn more about Illinois’ performance-based funding system and other policy innovations related to career pathways programs, please request access to the Accelerating Opportunity Braided Funding Toolkit. The toolkit contains a collection of innovative state and institutional level policy changes and funding strategies created and implemented by colleges participating in Accelerating Opportunity. It also includes guidance and information on how to identify and weave together multiple state, local, and federal resources to support integrated career pathways programs.

Read our next post on Kansas’ tiered funding model.