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How to Apply (Apply by March 1, 2022)
A Review of the ECACE Application Process
Changes to Application Data
How Funds Are Disbursed
If you work or have worked in early childhood education and you're seeking additional credentials and/or a degree in early childhood education, you may be eligible for the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE) Scholarship Program. The program was created to address the shortage of qualified early childhood educators by encouraging the pursuit of credentials and advancement of already-held degrees in early childhood education, with an aim toward building a strong, well-prepared workforce. Recipients of the scholarship are expected to continue or return to teaching or direct services in the early childhood care and education field in Illinois after they complete their program of study.
Awards are available for undergraduate study at public and non-profit private 2- and 4-year Gateways-entitled and Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity member institutions. For students attending community colleges and public universities, the scholarship will cover the applicant's total cost of attendance for an academic year (including summer) after other financial aid received. Students at participating non-profit private institutions may receive an amount no more than the cost of the most expensive program of study in the early childhood education field at an Illinois public college.
To be eligible, you must:
- be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen
- be a member of the incumbent workforce, currently working or having worked in the early childhood field (in either a licensed or license-exempt facility), including family child care and center-based care settings, Preschool for All school-based settings, and Head Start, that serves children from birth to age 5 and includes teachers, assistant teachers, directors, family child care providers and assistants. Applicants must provide documentation confirming their current membership in the Gateways to Opportunity® Registry.
- A licensed facility is a child care program in a center or home (family child care) that is licensed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Most programs that serve more than three children aged 0 – 12 in a center or home are required to be licensed. Public and private schools and programs in other settings may not be required to be licensed and are typically categorized as "license-exempt", if serving children aged three and older.
- License-exempt refers to child care that is not required to be licensed by DCFS. They may include programs operated by public or private elementary school systems, high schools or institutions of higher learning; programs conducted on federal government premises; and other programs recognized or registered with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), if children in the program are aged three and older.
- be enrolled or accepted for enrollment on a full- or part-time (at least 3 credit hours) basis at a public or non-profit private 2- or 4-year Gateways-entitled and Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE) member institution, as an undergraduate student, pursuing an early childhood education major
- if attending a 4-year institution, be at the junior level or above, or hold an Associate of Applied Science, Associate of Arts, or Associate of Science degree focused in early childhood education.
- be enrolled or accepted for enrollment in a course of study which, upon completion, qualifies you to receive:
- a postsecondary credential or undergraduate degree in the field of early childhood education, or
- a Professional Educator's License in early childhood education.
- maintain satisfactory academic progress as established by your college
- complete the online application process by submitting a complete Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity Scholarship Program application and a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) on or before by the ISAC-established date in order to receive priority consideration.
- be certified as meeting eligibility requirements by the college at which you will use the scholarship.
- not be in default on any federal student loan, nor owe a refund on any State or federal grant. If you are in default, you may re-establish your eligibility.
To view a listing of Illinois colleges approved to participate in this program, click on the link for the appropriate school year:
The ECACE Scholarship Program interactive application may be accessed online via the Program Applications & Status Checks area of the ISAC Student Portal. The online application has built-in edits to prevent errors, and we will send immediate confirmation to your e-mail address that your application has been received at ISAC.
An ECACE Scholarship application must be submitted for each academic year in which benefits are to be used. Applicants are also required to complete the FAFSA for the same academic year that you are applying for the scholarship. To determine your eligibility for the scholarship, the ECACE-participating Illinois college at which you plan to use the award must be listed on your FAFSA. The FAFSA results will be used to prioritize awarding, although you do not need to demonstrate financial need to receive the award.
If you haven't filed an online FAFSA before, you will first need to create an FSA ID at studentaid.gov/fsa-id to login and use as your electronic signature. Once you access the online FAFSA, you will be asked to choose the school year for which you will be completing the FAFSA. This will need to be the same year as the ECACE application you are submitting. For example, if you are filling out an ECACE application for the 2021-22 school year, you must also complete the 2021-22 FAFSA.
Both the ECACE application and the FAFSA must be completed and submitted on or before the priority consideration date. The priority consideration date is announced each year when the application is made available. The priority consideration date for the 2021-22 application is March 1, 2022. Applications received after that date will be given consideration if funding remains available after all timely, qualified applicants have been awarded.
On the ECACE application, you will be asked to list the college you plan to attend. If you are undecided, list your first choice; if necessary, the college of record can be changed after your application has been submitted. If you plan to or are attending more than one college during the same term, list only your college of record on your application. Contact your financial aid office(s) if you are unsure which college is considered your college of record. Each college must be an ECACE-participating college.
The application process requires proof of employment as part of the incumbent workforce through an Eligibility Verification Form. Incumbent workforce is defined as having worked in the early childhood industry (in either a licensed or license-exempt facility), including family child care and center-based care settings, Preschool for All school-based settings, and Head Start, that serves children from birth to age 5 and includes teachers, assistant teachers, directors, family child care providers and assistants.
An Eligibility Verification Form from the Gateways Registry must be downloaded and/or printed and then uploaded when completing the application. You will not be allowed to proceed through the application without uploading the required documentation, so it is recommended to obtain and print your verification form before starting the online application. No other documentation of your employment history will be accepted. Registry members will enter through the Dashboard Login to access the form. Follow these instructions to access your Eligibility Verification Form. If you're not already a member, you can complete your registration on the site and then obtain your verification form. You must be a current Gateways Registry member to qualify for the scholarship. The Eligibility Verification Form contains members' employment history, with assigned position codes. For award consideration, at least one of the position codes must be an eligible code.
View a recording of "A Review of the ECACE Application Process" by clicking on the below "View Recording" button:
After you submit your application, the process is as follows:
- You will immediately receive an e-mail confirming that your application was received at ISAC.
- Be sure the financial aid office of the college you plan to attend knows you will be enrolling and that you have submitted an ECACE Scholarship Program application.
- If your application, including required documentation, is incomplete, you will receive a letter from ISAC explaining the reason(s) and advising you how to resolve the issue.
- After ISAC determines that both the ECACE Scholarship application and the FAFSA have been submitted, you will receive a letter stating that your application is considered complete. Unless you need to change any of your application data (see Changes to Application Data below), there is nothing more for you to do at this point.
- Once the priority consideration date (March 1, 2022 for the 2021-22 academic year) has passed, you will be notified of your award status. You will be determined either pre-qualified or ineligible. Pre-qualified means that you have met the initial eligibility requirements and the next step will be verification of your enrollment and program eligibility by your college. Ineligible applicants will receive a letter from ISAC.
- Your college will certify your eligibility and request payment on your behalf. Program funds are disbursed directly to the college.
- Applications are processed in date-received order.
- Renewal applicants (applicants who received an ECACE Scholarship in the previous academic year) will receive priority consideration.
- ISAC prioritizes recipients from among the neediest of applicants, according to information from the FAFSA.
- Qualified applicants may receive ECACE Scholarship funds only up to the amount by which their cost of attendance exceeds the amount of other financial aid they are receiving.
Only one application for this program may be submitted per academic year. Consequently, if you need to change your response(s) to any item(s) and/or update any information after the application has been submitted, you will need to provide the information to ISAC. Examples of items that may need to be updated include demographic information (i.e., name, address, telephone number, etc.), your college of record and the impacted terms (e.g., full year, or fall or spring semester). These changes can be submitted to ISAC using one of the below methods, but cannot be done over the telephone.
- via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
- via FAX to 847.831.8549
- via letter to ISAC Dept D, 1755 Lake Cook Road, Deerfield, IL 60015-5209
The request must include the last four digits of your Social Security number (for identification purposes) and clearly state what change(s) need to be made. These changes will not affect the application "received date." In order to allow adequate processing time and prevent a loss of benefits, changes to your college of record should to be reported prior to the beginning of the applicable term(s).
ISAC works with the college to disburse funds for this program. The college certifies student eligibility and then submits a payment request on behalf of the student. ISAC processes the payment request and submits the information to the State Comptroller's Office.
Depending on the college, students may be responsible for payment until program funds are received. Qualified applicants who are awaiting receipt of funds from this program should contact the Financial Aid Office to determine the college's policy.
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 2021-22 Academic Year
(last updated on November 29, 2021):
The application for the 2021-22 Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE) Scholarship Program is currently available. You are encouraged to complete and submit the application as soon as possible, and no later than the priority consideration date of March 1, 2022.
Applicants will be notified of their award status after the priority consideration date has passed.