Rockford University gives Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D - Illinois) the Jane Addams Medal of Distinguished Service, the university's highest honor.
University president Eric Fulcomer presented the award to Duckworth for her work in making higher education more accessible.
The Jane Addams award is given to those who are pioneers in their careers and show outstanding character.
Duckworth also noted the importance of investing in career and technical training programs to connect students with jobs.
"Here at Rockford University, I think we need to talk about affordable education so that our kids and anybody who wants to go to school - whether it's for a technical program or a college or a university - can afford to get through school debt free," Duckworth said. "I'm not saying free education I'm saying debt-free, which means you'll have to work your way through school but you'll get out debt-free."