Illinois College Grants — Options and How to Apply

 June 10, 2020
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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 $24,241 in 2020, according to College Tuition Compare, which provides cost statistics on U.S. schools.

This can be expensive if you don’t have enough financial help to cover a college education. Luckily, there are many Illinois grants that could help you pay for school.

How to get Illinois grants

The first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which 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. However, some state, local and college grants require extra forms to complete, so be on the lookout for other requirements aside from the FAFSA.

7 Illinois grants for college

Many Illinois grants require separate applications. Each opportunity for grant money in Illinois has unique requirements, such as being a resident or being at a specific juncture in your education. These grants also have varying deadlines and awards, so be sure to do your research.

1. Monetary Award Program (MAP)
2. Illinois National Guard (ING) Grant
3. Illinois Veteran Grant (IVG) Program
4. Grant Program for Dependents of Police or Fire Officers
5. Grant Program for Dependents of Correctional Officers
6. Higher Education License Plate (HELP) Program
7. AIM HIGH Grant Pilot Program

1. Monetary Award Program (MAP)

Completing the FAFSA qualifies you for the MAP, which is open to college students of all ages, though they must be an Illinois resident. Due to high demand, these grants are only available for the fall and spring semesters.

The MAP is based on your enrollment, and you must have 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 make sure you 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 eligible, 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 in Illinois law enforcement or fire service, you might be eligible for this grant. It’s designated for tuition and mandatory fees, and those pursuing undergraduate and graduate studies can qualify.

This opportunity for grant money in Illinois is different because you won’t need to be a state 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 an Illinois 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 Illinois colleges, private or public.

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 for purchase. 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, and it isn’t eligible to be used during the summer semester without approval from your school.

7. AIM HIGH Grant Pilot Program

The state’s newest opportunity for government grant money in Illinois is for prospective first-year students attending one of the state’s dozen public, four-year colleges. Exclusively for in-state students, the grant is renewable and could result in a matching award directly funded by the university. Contact your school to determine if anything beyond your FAFSA is necessary to apply.

As a pilot program, the grant’s staying power will be decided by available funding from the Illinois government.

4 federal grants available now

Completing the FAFSA allows you to qualify for federal and state grants, scholarships and loans. Here are some grants that you might be eligible for as an Illinois student.

1. Pell Grant for Illinois students
2. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
3. Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant
4. Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant

1. Pell Grant for Illinois students

The Pell Grant, available in Illinois and beyond, is one of the biggest grants offered. Your award will be based on your financial need and EFC, and 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, but note that 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, which means you’ll have to pay 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. However, you cannot receive both grants.

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.

Illinois grants are available if you apply early

Regardless of your financial situation, it’s worth applying for grant money in Illinois 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 money on the table that you can use toward your college education.

Explore all of your money options at the local, state and federal level. Be sure to check out your school’s grant options, too.

If gift aid, work-study programs and college savings accounts aren’t enough to afford your cost of attendance, you might have to resort to borrowing. Consider your federal loan options.

Although Illinois’s government doesn’t lend supplementary loans, you could also consider private student loans offered by banks, credit unions and online companies to fill any gaps in cost.

Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.

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