Guide to Illinois Scholarships, Grants, and Student Loans
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For students in Illinois, extensive funding options are available to help pay for higher education.
There are Illinois scholarships and grants, as well as student loans to help students cover the cost of an education.
Read on to find out the steps to get started if you’re searching for Illinois scholarships, grants, and student loans.
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Getting Financial Aid for College in Illinois
When a student needs financial aid, the first step they should take is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It’s important to fill out a FAFSA as soon as possible before doing anything else to obtain aid. The FAFSA is used by all colleges to determine the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and a student’s eligibility for both federal and state aid. The FAFSA has to be completed before the college’s priority deadline date, and has to be completed every year a student is in school.
Once a student completes the FAFSA, they will have a better understanding of how much financial aid they might be eligible for, and how much they might need to fill financial gaps when it comes to the cost of college.
Students can then start looking for Illinois scholarships and grants. Although there aren’t necessarily state-based student loans in Illinois, there are loan forgiveness programs offered by the state for students who go into certain careers. There are also Illinois student loans available from specific state schools.
Illinois Student Loans
Illinois student loans can be used to cover the cost of some or all of higher education. The federal government usually issues student loans, but some states have their own loan programs as well. Along with federal and state student loans, there are also private student loans available.
Some of the most commonly utilized federal student loans include the Federal Perkins Loan and the Stafford Loan. There’s also the Federal PLUS Loan program for parents, graduates, or professional-level students. Illinois state loan programs include:
- Illinois Teachers Loan Repayment Program: This program was designed to encourage people to teach in low-income Illinois schools. Under this program, if a Federal Stafford loan borrower qualifies for the federal loan forgiveness program, the state of Illinois might provide a matching award. The award goes up to $5,000 for teachers to repay their student loan debt.
- Nurse Educator Loan Repayment Program: Similar to the Teachers Loan Repayment Program, the Nurse Educator Program isn’t itself a loan, but is a program offered by the state of Illinois to help qualified people repay their student loans. This program helps eligible nurse educators repay their student loans, and they can qualify for up to $5,000 to repay their debt.
- John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program: This program from the state of Illinois allows for the repayment of loans (i.e., Federal Family Education Loan Program and Federal Direct Loans) for students who agree to stay employed as public defenders and prosecutors for at least three years. The yearly award for qualified individuals may be up to $4,000.
Scholarships for College Students in Illinois
While many students receive federal and state student loans, that financial aid does have to be repaid. Scholarships, on the other hand, do not.
To begin looking for Illinois college scholarships, you can talk to your school counselor, any organizations your family might be affiliated with, and you can do online searches. Many Illinois college scholarships are going to be very specific in their requirements and their application dates. Some are merit-based, while others might be offered to students who are going to study in a particular discipline or who are part of a community organization.
There are quite a few scholarships for college students in Illinois, especially for students who live in certain counties or areas of the state. A few Illinois college scholarships available include:
- Anhelo Project Dream Scholarship: This scholarship is based on financial need and is offered to undocumented immigrant students who are undergraduate or graduate students. Awarding of the scholarship is based on a variety of factors including academic achievement and volunteer time. Students have to attend Illinois institutions.
- Alpha Delta Kappa XI Education Scholarship: This is offered by the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois. It’s available to residents of Boone, Ogle, Stephenson, and Winnebago counties who declare elementary, secondary, or special education majors.
- George M. Pullman Educational Foundation Scholarships: This scholarship is awarded to 14,000 students from the Chicago Pullman/Roeland Community. It’s a renewable $10,000 award that is based on merit and need. Online application options are available.
- Mary T. Washington Wylie Opportunity Fund: This is awarded by the Illinois CPA Society, and scholarships are $4,000 each. Minority students who plan to study accounting are eligible.
- Gary S. Wilmer/Rami Music Scholarships: This scholarship is awarded by the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois and is available in amounts of at least $1,000. Students should be from Boone, Ogle, or Winnebago counties and should be pursuing music education.
- Illinois Conservation Achievement Scholarship: The Illinois Conservation Foundation awards this scholarship. The award is $2,000, provided to students who work in conservation and environmental sustainability.
Illinois Grants for College
Another option for students are Illinois college grants. Grants usually come from state or federal financial aid, given to the college or university a student plans to attend. This is in contrast to scholarships, which often come from private organizations such as businesses, religious groups, individuals, and community groups. The similarity between Illinois scholarships and grants is they provide funding that doesn’t have to be paid back.
The following are some Illinois college grants students might be eligible for:
- Illinois National Guard (ING) Grant Program: Under this program, students who are members of the Illinois National Guard might be eligible to receive coverage for tuition and some educational fees for undergraduate and graduate study. This grant can only be used at Illinois two- or four-year public colleges.
- Higher Education License Plate (HELP) Program: The HELP Program provides grants to students attending Illinois colleges which offer special collegiate license plates. The Illinois Secretary of State manages the program. The proceeds of the particular license plates are used to fund undergraduate education for state students.
- Grant Program for Dependents of Police or Fire Officers: This grant program is available to spouses and children of Illinois police or fire officers who were killed or who became at least 90 percent disabled in the line of duty.
Author: Jeff Gitlen, CEPF®