Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver (SETTW) Program
Because this program is a tuition waiver for attendance at public universities in Illinois, awards are not subject to annual appropriations by the Illinois General Assembly and the Governor.
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If you are a teacher or an academically talented student pursuing a career in special education as a nonprofit public, private or parochial preschool, elementary or secondary school teacher in Illinois, you may be eligible for the Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver Program. This program will exempt you from paying tuition and mandatory fees at an eligible institution, for up to four calendar years.
By receiving the tuition waiver, you must teach in Illinois in the field of special education. If this teaching commitment is not fulfilled, the amount of benefits received converts to a loan, and you must repay the entire amount plus interest.
To be eligible, you must:
- Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen
- Be an Illinois resident
- Meet one of the following conditions: you graduated from an approved high school; or you are scheduled to graduate from an approved high school by the end of the academic year in which the award is made and you performed in the upper half of your graduating class according to performance-based academic data provided by the high school; or you hold a valid teaching certificate that is not in the discipline of special education
- Be enrolled, or accepted for enrollment, at one of the eligible public four-year colleges in Illinois (providing the institution offers a concentration in Special Education) as an undergraduate or graduate student seeking initial certification in any area of special education
- Be enrolled in a program of special education within 10 days after the beginning of the term for which the waiver was initially awarded
- Not at any time have received cumulative Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver benefits that equal or exceed the program maximum of four calendar years
- Complete the application process by:
- submitting a fully-completed Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver Program application, which includes the Teaching Agreement/Promissory Note (in order to receive priority consideration for an award, the complete application must be received at ISAC on or before the March 1 immediately preceding the academic year for which the tuition waiver is requested),
- being certified as meeting eligibility requirements by the college at which you will use the scholarship, and
- accepting the scholarship (if one is offered)*
- Sign the application's Teaching Agreement/Promissory Note promising to fulfill the teaching commitment or repay funds received plus interest
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress as determined by your college
- Remain in attendance at the college on a continuous basis for up to four years (unless granted an approved leave of absence, in which case the course of study must be completed within six years)
- Not be in default on any student loan, nor owe a refund on any state or federal grant. If you are in default, you may re-establish your eligibility.
- Comply with federal Selective Service registration requirements
- Not receive funds from the Minority Teachers of Illinois (MTI) Scholarship Program or the Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois Program during the same term(s) for which you receive funds from the Illinois SETTW Program.
* Once an academic year has ended, adjustments to benefits received will not be made for individuals who originally had their expenses (e.g., tuition and fees) covered using those benefits (i.e., the applicant cannot choose to "pay back" the dollar amount of benefits used in order to reinstate eligibility for the future).
In addition to eligibility requirements, applicants should also be aware of the rights and responsibilities for program recipients. To view the rights and responsibilities for this program, click on the link for the appropriate academic year:
To apply, you must obtain the Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver (SETTW) Application by clicking here, or by requesting it from ISAC, eligible institutions or offices of Regional Superintendents of Education in Illinois, or state legislative and federal congressional offices. Submit your complete application to ISAC's Deerfield office postmarked on or before March 1 immediately preceding the initial academic year for which you are requesting the tuition waiver, in order to receive priority consideration. Applications postmarked after that date will be given consideration for the award if, after the initial round of awarding, funding all 250 available tuition waivers have not been awarded. Once you're awarded the tuition waiver, you do not need to reapply for consideration for additional years. If you are eligible for the Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver, you will receive a notice of eligibility by July 1.
When a new Illinois SETTW recipient is named, the college must provide ISAC with verification of the student's enrollment and program eligibility. The college is also asked to verify the recipient's enrollment and continued eligibility status for each academic year that the tuition waiver is renewed.
ISAC annually awards 250 tuition waivers.
- A maximum of 40 tuition waivers is awarded to qualified applicants who hold valid teaching certificates that are not in the discipline of special education. If more than 40 applicants qualify under these provisions, a lottery is used to select 40 recipients.
- A maximum of 105 tuition waivers is awarded to qualified applicants who have graduated from an approved high school prior to the academic year in which the award is made. If more than 105 applicants qualify under these provisions, a lottery is used to select 105 recipients.
- A minimum of 105 tuition waivers is awarded to qualified applicants scheduled to graduate from an approved high school in the academic year in which the award is made and who perform in the upper half of their class according to performance-based academic data provided by the high school at the end of the sixth semester. Recipients for this group are selected from among qualified applicants based on the highest ACT or SAT test scores from the appropriate time period. Any of the 145 tuition waivers not awarded under the provisions outlined in the two preceding bullets are awarded to this group.
Note that ISAC routinely updates this section as new information becomes available. Be sure to check back periodically for the current processing status.
For the 2015-16 Academic Year
(last updated on March 2, 2015):
The application for the 2015-16 Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver Program is available to download and print, however, the priority application consideration date for the 2015-16 academic year was March 1, 2015. Complete applications postmarked after that date will be considered for the Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver only if available waivers remain after all timely complete applicants have been awarded.
Correspondence regarding the status of your application is mailed to you within three weeks after the date your application is received at ISAC.
The process from this point forward for all complete applications is as follows:
- A Notice of Eligibility will be sent by July 1 to each qualified applicant who is selected to receive a tuition waiver. Included with this notice will be an Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver Information and Rights and Responsibilities form.
- ISAC will obtain verification of enrollment and program eligibility from the college of each qualified applicant selected to receive a tuition waiver. In addition, the qualified applicant is responsible for providing a copy of the Notice of Eligibility to the college.
- ISAC will notify all other qualified applicants that they were not selected.
For the 2014-15 Academic Year
(last updated on December 16, 2014):
The Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver Program priority application consideration date for the 2014-15 academic year was March 1, 2014. All 2014-15 tuition waivers have been awarded, with priority consideration given to those complete applications postmarked on or before March 1, 2014. For 2013-14 high school graduates, only those with an ACT (or equivalent) score of 23 or above were selected; however, not all applicants with a score of 23 received a tuition waiver.
Award notifications and 2014-15 Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver (SETTW) Rights and Responsibilities documents have been mailed to the 250 eligible applicants, for the initial round of awarding that took place in April and the subsequent awarding in December. Follow-up letters and revised Rights and Responsibilities documents were also mailed in December to all initial waiver recipients, explaining that – beginning with 2014-15 awards – the repayment period for awards that convert to a loan is ten years (for awards received prior to 2014-15, the repayment period is five years). See the Program Requirements page of this website for additional details.
ISAC has notified all other qualified applicants that they were not selected.
The process from this point forward for all complete applications is as follows:
- ISAC obtains verification of enrollment and program eligibility from the college of each qualified applicant selected to receive a tuition waiver. In addition, the qualified applicant is responsible for providing a copy of the Notice of Eligibility to the college.
(providing the institution offers a concentration in special education)
- 001694 Chicago State University
- 001674 Eastern Illinois University
- 009145 Governors State University
- 001692 Illinois State University
- 001693 Northeastern Illinois University
- 001737 Northern Illinois University
- 001758 Southern Illinois University – Carbondale
- 001759 Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville
- 001776 University of Illinois – Chicago
- 009333 University of Illinois – Springfield
- 001775 University of Illinois – Urbana
- 001780 Western Illinois University
ISAC offers two programs designed specifically for individuals studying to become teachers: the Illinois SETTW Program and the Minority Teachers of Illinois (MTI) Scholarship Program. A comparison chart provides a side-by-side view of the Illinois SETTW, MTI Scholarship, federal TEACH Grant, and Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois programs.