What is the Illinois Gateways to Opportunity Scholarship Program?
The Gateways Scholarship Program is an individual-based scholarship opportunity, for practitioners working in early care and education. The program provides financial assistance for early childhood education and child development (ECE/CD) coursework and degrees offered through participating colleges and universities, dependent on available funding. The Gateways Scholarship Program is administered by INCCRRA and funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).
Who can apply for the Gateways Scholarship Program?
Professionals employed by an Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS) licensed full-day, full-year* child care program or family/group child care home, or IDCFS licensed school-age child care programs operating a minimum of nine months per year. Professionals must also be working in one of the following positions:
- In IDCFS licensed programs: Family Child Care Provider, Family Child Care Assistant, Group Home Provider, Group
Home Assistant, Director, Assistant Director, Teacher, Assistant Teacher, School-Age Teacher,
- In an ISBE Funded Preschool for All (PFA) program that operates for a minimum of nine months per year: Teacher or Teacher's Aide.
*A full-day, full year program operates 8 or more consecutive hours per day, for a minimum of 47 weeks per year.
What additional eligibility requirements are there?
Gateways Scholarship recipients must:
- Educate and care for Illinois children.
- Have been employed at their current IDCFS licensed center or home for a minimum of one year. (90 days if employed at an ExceleRate Bronze, Silver or Gold Circle of Quality program. (90-day exemption does not pertain to ISBE PFA staff.))
- Have been employed at an ISBE funded PFA program for one full school year.
- Work an average of 15 hours per week or more on a continuous employment basis (includes work and benefit time) and at least 47 weeks per year.
- Meet wage requirements.
- Be a citizen of the United States, be a “legal alien”, or reside in the State of Illinois.
- Commit to work in early care and education (ECE) or school-age child care for a period of time, based on scholarship type, upon the completion of the scholarship contract.
How many credits will the scholarship assist with?
Scholarship recipients may be authorized for up to 5 courses in a contract period OR a maximum of 15 semester/23 quarter hours in a contract period (for courses outside of the typical course length).
- Bachelor’s degree applicants must have 55 transfer semester or 82 transfer quarter hours accepted at participating four year institutions to apply, or a conferred associates degree.
What education will the Gateways Scholarship Program support?
The program will pay a certain percentage of tuition for eligible practitioners whose goal it is to earn:
- A Certificate in ECE/CD.
- An Associates Degree in ECE/CD.
- A Bachelor’s Degree in ECE/CD.
- A Master’s Degree in ECE/CD.
- Coursework to advance on the Great START Wage Supplement Scale.
- Coursework toward a Gateways to Opportunity Credential.
- A bachelor’s or master’s degree related to program administration for ECE/CD.
- Coursework for Illinois Professional Educator Licensure in Early Childhood.
- Early Childhood student teaching.
- Coursework for Bilingual/ESL Approval/Endorsement.
How much scholarship assistance will Gateways provide? How much will I need to pay?
Upon being found eligible and registering for coursework, the Gateways Scholarship Program will pay the participating college or university a percentage of the cost of tuition, dependent on your income level.
The percentage paid by the Gateways Scholarship Program for tuition is determined through a sliding invoice scale, which is based upon the recipient’s income at time of award.
|% of Tuition Gateways Scholarship Program Would Pay||Applicant Responsibility to College or University||Hourly Wage|
|100%||0%||up to $4.25 over Illinois State Minimum Wage|
|90%||10%||$4.26 to $7.00 over Illinois State Minimum Wage|
|80%||20%||$7.01 to $10.00 over Illinois State Minimum Wage|
|70%||30%||$10.01 to $13.00 over Illinois State Minimum Wage|
|60%||40%||$13.01 to $16.00 over Illinois State Minimum Wage|
Gateways Scholarship Program will not pay out of district costs.
Scale based on a 40-hour work week.
How do I apply for, or renew, the Gateways Scholarship Program?
The application and information on how to apply are available on the Gateways to Opportunity website.
- Applicants must submit required documentation along with a scholarship application.
- Additional documentation may be required upon review of your application.
What is an official transcript?
How will I know if I am eligible for the Gateways Scholarship Program?
You will receive a notice within 30 days of the receipt of your completed and signed application and required documents informing you whether or not you are eligible. If eligible, you will be assigned to a Gateways Scholarship Counselor who will assist you throughout the scholarship process.
When do I apply for a Gateways Scholarship?
The Gateways Scholarship Program accepts applications year round.
- Please submit your signed and completed application and required documents 4-6 weeks before the start of your approved course work.
- Scholarship applications are processed and approved on a first come, first serve basis and dependent upon availability
Your signed application serves as your contract with the Gateways Scholarship Program.
How long is my contract valid?
All contracts begin on July 1st and end on June 30th.
How long may I participate in the Gateways Scholarship Program?
You may sign as many contracts as needed to complete a degree, certificate, licensure, endorsement, or credential as long as all grades are submitted and all Gateways Scholarship Program eligibility requirements continue to be met.
Can the Gateways Scholarship Program be combined with other financial aid?
Yes, you can apply for other financial aid in addition to the Gateways Scholarship Program. If you receive a MAP Grant, your college or university will deduct the MAP Grant prior to invoicing the Gateways Scholarship Program for your tuition.
When do I register for courses?
After receiving your eligibility letter, share the course(s) you wish to register for with your Gateways Scholarship Counselor by completing and submitting the Participant Class Schedule. After submitting your Participant Class Schedule, you may register for courses. Please use the authorization time frames below:
|Semester Hour Schools Authorization Timeframes||Quarter Hour Schools Authorization Timeframes|
|Fall Semester: July 1st–August 31st||Fall Quarter: July 1st–September 30th|
|Spring Semester: October 1st–January 15th||Winter Quarter: November 1st–January 15th|
|Summer Semester 1: April 1st–May 31st||Spring Quarter: February 1st–April 30th|
|Summer Semester 2: July 1st - July 31st||Summer Quarter 1: July 1st–July 31st|
|Summer Quarter 2: July 1st–August 15th|
Authorizations are NOT allowed after deadlines.
*Exceptions may be made on a case by case basis for schools who offer midterm classes.
What would my work commitment period to early care and education and school-age care be, after participating in the Gateways Scholarship Program?
The work commitment period to early care and education is dependent upon coursework completed and scholarship
type. Work commitment periods follow:
- Six months for completion of a coursework contract
- One year for completion of a degree (associate, bachelor's, master's)
- One year for completion of a certificate, license, endorsement
The work commitment must be completed in one of the following early care and education or school-age care settings:
- In IDCFS licensed programs: Family Child Care Provider, Family Child Care Assistant, Group Home Provider, Group Home Assistant, Director, Assistant Director, Teacher, Assistant Teacher, School-Age Teacher, School-Age Assistant
- In an ISBE Funded Preschool for All (PFA) program that operates for a minimum of nine months per year: Teacher or Teacher's Aide
The commitment period begins at the completion of the contract period. All scholarship contracts end on June 30.
What would be my responsibilities for participating in this program?
If you are eligible for the Gateways Scholarship Program, your eligibility notice will tell you the percentage of tuition that will be paid to your college or university.
- You will be required to submit grade reports at the end of every term.
- If you do not submit grades for two consecutive terms, you will not be allowed to register for the next term.
- You must make a commitment to early care and education or school-age care. The commitment period begins at the completion of the contract period. All scholarship contracts end on June 30.
What happens if I leave my place of employment during a contract or a work commitment period?
If you leave your place of employment during a contract to work in another early care and education or school-age program, you need to contact your Gateways Scholarship Counselor immediately to discuss your scholarship options.
If you leave the field of early care and education or school-age child care during your work commitment period, you will be required to reimburse INCCRRA the cost of your most recent contract.