If you’re planning on attending college in Illinois, you might end up with a lot of student loan debt. The cost of attendance for an in-state undergraduate student was $23,691 in 2017, according to College Tuition Compare.
This can be expensive if you don’t have enough financial help to cover a college education. Luckily, there are many Illinois grants to help you pay for school.
The difference between grants and scholarships
While similar, scholarships and grants are created and awarded differently. Both are financial gifts that don’t need to be repaid, which makes them different from loans. Loans are borrowed money.
Many scholarships are based on merit, meaning they take your grades and achievements into account. Grants, on the other hand, are often based on your financial need. You’ll find grants and scholarships that are available at the federal, state, local, and even institutional level.
It’s best to consider both grants and scholarships before loans. This can help you graduate with less student loan debt, which means you won’t have to pay as much back after you get your degree.
How to get Illinois grants
The first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will determine how much money you’ll receive for college. If you’re a dependent, you’ll need your parents to help you. Make sure you have everything you need to fill out the form.
After you complete the FAFSA, your school of choice will calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Your EFC will influence the financial aid package you receive, which can include a mix of grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study.
Completing your FAFSA qualifies you for both state and federal grants. Some state, local, and college grants require extra forms to complete, so be on the lookout for other requirements aside from the FAFSA.
6 Illinois grants for college
Many Illinois grants require separate applications. Each grant program has its own requirements, deadlines, and awards. Be sure to do your research.
1. Monetary Award Program (MAP)
Completing the FAFSA qualifies you for the MAP, which is open to college students of all ages. Due to high demand, these grants are only available for the fall and spring semesters.
The MAP is based on your enrollment of three to 15 credit hours. If you’re enrolled in more than 15 credit hours, you’ll only be awarded funding for up to 15. You can only use a MAP grant for tuition and fees. Not everyone that completes the FAFSA or is in need of a MAP grant gets one, so apply early.
2. Illinois National Guard (ING) Grant
If you’re an Illinois National Guard member, you might qualify for the ING Grant. You can apply if you attend a two- or four-year public institution. If you qualify, you’ll need to apply separately from the FAFSA. Depending on when you apply, you could receive aid for a summer term.
After you’ve applied and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission has verified your enrollment, funds will be sent directly to your school. Applications take about four weeks to process, so plan accordingly.
3. Illinois Veteran Grant (IVG) Program
If you’ve served at least one year in the Armed Forces, you might be eligible for the IVG. It’s good toward two- or four-year public institutions but only covers tuition and mandatory fees. Mandatory fees are determined by each institution but usually include activities, transportation, facility operations, and anything that the college believes is a required fee.
If you qualify for both the ING and IVG, you can receive both if you meet all the requirements. You can even use both during the same academic year, but you should talk to your school’s financial aid office to go over your options.
4. Grant Program for Dependents of Police or Fire Officers
If your parent or spouse was killed or disabled in the line of duty as a police or fire officer, you might be eligible for this grant. This grant is designated for tuition and mandatory fees, and only undergraduate and graduate students qualify.
This grant is different because you don’t need to be an Illinois resident to receive it. If you’re from out of state and will be attending a college in Illinois, you’re eligible. It’s good for two- or four-year institutions, public or private. You’ll need to apply separately from the FAFSA and reapply every year to receive funds.
5. Grant Program for Dependents of Correctional Officers
If you’re a child or the spouse of a correctional officer that was killed or disabled in the line of duty, you might qualify for this grant. It’s only used for tuition and mandatory fees but is good for undergraduate and graduate students in two- or four-year colleges.
Like the Grant Program for Dependents of Police or Fire Officers, you don’t have to be an Illinois resident to apply.
6. Higher Education License Plate (HELP) Program
You don’t need to do anything more than complete the FAFSA to be eligible for the HELP Program. Funding comes from Illinois colleges that have collegiate license plates available. Not all schools participate in this program, so you’ll need to check with your school to see if you qualify.
You can only use this grant toward tuition and mandatory fees. It isn’t eligible to be used during the summer semester without approval from your school.
4 federal grants available now
Completing the FAFSA gives you the opportunity to qualify for federal, state, and local grants, scholarships, and loans. Here are some grants that you might be eligible for as an Illinois student.
1. Pell Grant
The Pell Grant is one of the biggest grants offered in the country. Your award will be based on your financial need and EFC. You’ll need to complete the FAFSA to qualify.
2. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
The FSEOG is administered through the school you’re planning on attending, but a completed FAFSA is required for consideration.
Check with your college’s financial aid office to see if you’re eligible. Not all schools participate. Apply as early as possible because once FSEOG funds run out, no more money is awarded for the rest of the year.
3. Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant
You could be eligible to receive the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant if you complete certain classes and agree to be a teacher in a high-need area.
If you don’t fulfill your service requirements, the grant is converted into a Direct Unsubsidized Loan. That means when it comes time for repayment, you’ll have to pay back it back.
4. Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant
If a parent or family member died due to military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11, you might be able to qualify for this grant.
If you meet all the requirements for a Pell Grant except for the EFC, you may receive this grant instead. You can receive the same maximum amount the Pell Grant awards every year. You cannot receive both grants, however.
Illinois grants are available if you apply early
Regardless of your financial situation, it’s worth applying for grants even if you don’t think you meet every single qualification. Not every eligible student applies for grants and scholarships, which leaves a lot of free money on the table that you can use toward your college education.
Explore all of your free money options at the local, state, and federal level. Be sure to check out your school’s grant options, too.
But if you’re still having trouble paying for college, don’t be afraid to consider private student loans.
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