Gateways Scholarship Program funding has been depleted for scholarships supporting the attainment of an ISBE Professional Educator License, ESL/Bi-lingual Endorsement, or for recipients who are employed by an ISBE-funded Preschool for All, through June 30, 2022.

Please note: The Gateways Scholarship Program will continue to authorize coursework for recipients working towards early childhood/child development degrees/ certificates/ coursework not specified in the previous sentence.


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).

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,
    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.

*A full-day, full year program operates 8 or more consecutive hours per day, for a minimum of 47 weeks per year.


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. Not including PFA programs). 
  • 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).
  • Meet wage requirements.
  • Be a citizen of the United States or legal alien.
  • 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.


A maximum of 15 semester hours or 23 quarter hours in a contract period. A contract period does not exceed one year.

  • 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.


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.


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 is determined through a sliding income scale, which is based upon your income:

% of Tuition Gateways Scholarship Program Would Pay Applicant Responsibility to College or University Hourly Wage Gross Yearly Wage Working Full Time
100 0 up to $12.50 up to $26,020
90 10 $12.51 - $15.00 $26,021 - $31,220
80 20 $15.01 - $18.00 $31,221 - $37,459
70 30 $18.01 - $21.00 $37,460 - $43,699
60 40 $21.01 - $24.00 $43,700 - $49,920

Gateways Scholarship Program will not pay out of district costs.

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.


An official transcript is a transcript in a sealed envelope from an accredited college or university. The applicant should not open this envelope. Official electronic transcripts are also accepted if sent from an accredited college or university to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Copies of foreign evaluations may be accepted. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.


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.

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
    of funds.

Your signed application serves as your contract with the Gateways Scholarship Program.


All contracts begin on July 1st and end on June 30th.

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.


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.

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 submiting 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.
maybe made on a case by case basis for schools who offer midterm classes.

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:

  • IDCFS licensed full day, full year family/group child care home or center
  • IDCFS licensed school-age program operating a minimum of nine months a year
  • ISBE Funded Preschool for All program

The commitment period begins at the completion of the contract period. All scholarship contracts end on June 30.

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.


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.

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It also provides standards, guidelines, resources and supports to help you make sensible changes that lead to better quality outcomes for children.