Illinois Scholarships and Grants Programs
A college education is a valuable asset. Aside from the immediate advantages it provides to a job seeker, the habits one forms and the knowledge one gains in college can prove quite handy in almost any situation that arises in personal life as well.
State, local, and federal governments know the value of an educated workforce, and that the importance of education will only rise in the future as world becomes more populous and high-tech.
This is why most, if not all of our states offer an array of scholarships and educational grants to prospective students.
The cornerstone of Illinois’s commitment to higher education is ISAC, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. In 1957, a time when college enrollment in the U.S. was becoming more crucial than ever before, state lawmakers created ISAC as a way to ensure that financial difficulty would not stand in the way of students wishing to further their educations.
ISAC is a valuable asset for Illinois students, for it not only administers state educational programs but serves as an all inclusive financial aid center as well. With ISAC students can investigate and apply for all sorts of aid at all levels, from federally subsidized grants and loans to specialized scholarships offered by individual schools.
One useful aspect of ISAC is the College Illinois! 529 prepaid tuition program. Tuition costs rise with inflation just like any other commodity; every year average tuition costs rise by about six to eight percent. Aimed at families who like to plan ahead, this program provides substantial savings to students by allowing them to prepay future education costs at the current rate.
Also available to Illinois students is ISAC’s need based MAP, or Monetary Award Program. MAP is one of the largest programs of its kind to be found in the U.S.; it awards more than 380 million dollars per year to cover the tuition and fees of undergraduates who prove a need for assistance.
Some of the financial aid available to Illinois students is intended for general use, while the rest of it is awarded to students studying in a specific field. Any eligible student will benefit from the Federal Pell grant program, which determines eligibility based upon the income of the student and his or her family.
General Scholarships and Grants for Illinois Students
Illinois offers a number of scholarships which are available to students entering any major. Most of them are awarded based on academic achievement and/or the demonstration of leadership qualities and a passion for learning. Some of them are intended for use only at state-supported universities, as private schools often have their own endowments and scholarships to award. Illinois schools which meet these criteria are:
- Chicago State University
- Eastern Illinois University
- Governors State University
- Illinois State University
- Northern Illinois University
- Northeastern Illinois University
- Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
- Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville
- University of Illinois
- Western Illinois University
The Illinois General Assembly Legislative Scholarships are available to any Illinois student and usable at state universities. Each member of the General Assembly may nominate two eligible students annually for this award. The nominee must reside in the legislator’s district; the Assembly member may also split up the award between multiple recipients, with each one receiving a one, two, or four year scholarship. Students must apply for these scholarships by contacting their respective State Senator and State Representative, not the State Board of Education. Illinois General Assembly Scholarships are usable only at state-supported universities.
Merit Recognition Scholarship
The Merit Recognition Scholarship program awards aid to exceptional students. Exact amounts and the number of recipients are dependent on budget considerations and decided on a yearly basis, but the award is usually approximately 1,000 dollars. Students may be considered for this scholarship if they have ranked in the top five percent of their high school class at the end of the third semester before graduation, or achieved a score among the top five percent on the ACT, SAT, or the Prairie State Achievement Exam. Students do not have to apply for this scholarship specifically; they enter consideration upon meeting the criteria. This is a one time award usable at any state school or any of the four U.S. military academies.
Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship
The Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program is a federally funded program which is administered separately by each state. It awards a yearly amount of 1,500 dollars, renewable for up to three more years. This is awarded to top students in each year who have enrolled or been accepted as full time students at state colleges. Like the MRS program above, there is no formal application process. Students are automatically considered upon meeting the eligibility requirements. Unlike the MRS program, this award is not usable at military academies.
Specialized Scholarships and Grants for Illinois Students
Some students at Illinois state schools can take advantage of the MIA/POW Scholarship program, which awards tuition benefits to dependents of service members who are MIA or have been killed, disabled, or wounded in action.
Prospective students can also take advantage of a number of occupationally specific scholarships. It is very common for states to encourage students to enter fields which suffer from a shortage of practitioners, and to encourage graduates to continue to practice those occupations in their home states.
One field in which professionals are always in demand is education. Illinois offers lots of enticements to future teachers.
Special Education teachers are often in even shorter supply than others. The Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver is a great option for some. Students at Illinois state universities who commit to teaching special education students in-state for a specified length of time can have all of their college costs exempted, giving them a virtually free education.
The Minority Teachers of Illinois Scholarship Program is open to education or teaching majors of any minority: Native American, African American, Hispanic and Asian students can all take advantage of this benefit. Students studying primary or secondary education can receive up to 5,000 dollars per year. In return they must maintain a 2.5 grade point average and commit to teaching in Illinois for a pre-determined length of time.
The national Golden Apple Foundation provides scholarships in an attempt to supply good teachers to schools who need them. The Golden Apple Scholars Program awards full tuition at any public Illinois university to students who subsequently teach at least five years in high-need schools, which are usually located either in urban districts in cities such as Chicago or rural, understaffed schools.
Illinois has its own version of the above scholarship: the Illinois Future Teacher Corps Program. It is open to any teaching student in an Illinois public university. Students who can prove a financial need and academic talent can receive up to ten thousand dollars per academic year. Preference is given to students willing to work in high-need districts, or in a subjects such as science and math which often suffer from shortages.
Illinois has a keen interest in retaining enough nurses and physicians to serve the state’s needs as health care is one of the most essential and fastest growing sectors of the economy. Combine this with the stress one usually encounters working in the health care field, and there is almost always a high demand for nurses. In 2006 Governor Blagojevich enacted a package of initiatives to combat this shortage, expanding the educational benefits to those entering the health care field.
Contact ISAC to apply for a Nurse Educator Scholarship. The nursing shortage is not limited to the nurses you see at the local hospital; there is also a dearth of qualified teachers and administrative nurses. Post grad nursing students who teach in an Illinois nursing school after graduation can receive up to 10,000 dollars per academic year towards tuition and fees incurred in a Master’s program, as well as a stipend to cover living expenses. Since these are fairly new programs, there is also a Nurse Educator Loan Repayment Program, which provides up to 5,000 dollars per year in student loan forgiveness, for up to four years, to nursing educators.
The Illinois Department of Public Health’s Center for Rural Health also administers a number of programs intended to suplly nurses to underserved areas of the state.
The Nursing Education Scholarship Program awards scholarships to students pursuing just about any sort of nursing certificate or degree. Award amounts vary greatly depending on the exact degree and institution, but students at public Illinois universities and nursing schools can receive benefits equal to full tuition if they are willing to work in an Illinois health care facility after graduation.
The Allied Healthcare Professional Scholarship program is another way to receive financial aid for students studying to be a nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, or other health care worker. Recipients will have to agree to be assigned to an understaffed area of the state.
Not just nurses can apply for these extensive benefits. The Medical Student Scholarship Program awards scholarships to Illinois residents in return for their service in towns and areas with a shortage of doctors.
Other Areas of Expertise and Random Aid Sources
African American Accounting students can apply at The Illinois CPA Society’s website for their Herman J. Neal Scholarship. The society awards scholarships of up to 4,000 dollars to future CPAs who have proven their potential and financial need.
ISAC can also help prospective students apply for grants available to dependents of correctional officers, police officers, and firemen who have been disabled or killed in the line of duty.
Incoming freshmen with a zero expected family contribution can receive the Silas Purnell Illinois Incentive for Access Program’s grant of 250 dollars. Not a particularly large amount, and it is down from the original amount of 500 dollars, but any extra help is essential when trying to deal with the costs of education.
The National Latino Education Institute offers the the ComEd/NLEI latino scholarship. It is available to Latino students at four year universities studying in most areas of concentration. Specifically, this includes students majoring in Math, Engineering, Communications & Media Relations, Chemistry, Physics, Liberal Arts, Law or Pre-Law, MBA or Business, Computer Science, or Accounting. That list refers to the 2009 scholarships, so the next round of awards may not be strictly limited to the areas listed.