JB Pritzker, Governor, State of Illinois

Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE) Scholarship Program

Program News

(last updated May 24, 2024)

2024-25 Program Funding
2023-24 Payment (submit claims now)
2023-24 Prequalification
2023-24 Student List Available
2023-24 Application Processing Pause
2023-24 Applications

2024-25

Program Funding

The ECACE Program has been funded for the last three academic years through federal coronavirus response dollars. It is hoped that the state legislature will consider some level of state funding for the scholarship for the 2024-25 academic year during its spring legislative session. When more information is available, updates will be posted to this page.

2023-24

Payment

Important dates and reminders for 2023-24 ECACE Scholarship payment processing:

  • As part of our ongoing efforts to best leverage appropriated funds to award as many eligible students as possible, priority payment request (i.e., claim) deadline dates are established for each term.
    • ISAC is accepting and holding claims for the summer term.
      • In order to be considered timely, 2023-24 ECACE claims for the summer term must be submitted on or before Friday, June 7, 2024.
    • Although the first-term (fall) priority claim deadline date was December 29, 2023, claims for the winter term (at quarter schools) were due by March 15, 2024, and claims for the spring term were due by May 3, 2024, ISAC is continuing to accept and pay claims for these terms through Wednesday, May 29, 2024.
    • Claims submitted after a term's priority claim deadline date will be paid only if funds remain after all timely claims have been paid.
    • The timely submission of claims and cancellations/adjustments allows ISAC staff to monitor remaining funds and award other students, as applicable.
      • Because this is the last year for which federal funding for this program is available, ISAC is monitoring remaining funds very closely.
      • The immediate submission of claims and cancellation/adjustment data by colleges is necessary so that comprehensive analysis can take place.

As announced in e-Messages dated August 21, January 11, April 23, and May 20, colleges may submit (via the ECACE system) 2023-24 ECACE Scholarship claims for students who have been prequalified.

By submitting a payment request to ISAC via the ECACE system, a college is certifying that the student meets all eligibility criteria. If a college determines that a prequalified applicant does not meet all eligibility requirements, they report the reason for ineligibility via the ECACE system.

The maximum award amount that may be claimed during the academic year populates in the "Max Annual Award Amount" field of the ECACE system as part of the prequalification process. Colleges must determine the term award amount(s) based on other financial aid the student is receiving, keeping in mind that the ECACE Scholarship is last payer, is not need-based aid, and can be used for any cost of attendance component.

Applications with Timely New, Timely Renewal, Untimely New and Untimely Renewal designations are all considered complete. Schools are encouraged to submit payment requests for complete prequalified students as soon as possible. The timely submission of payment requests allows ISAC staff to monitor program funding levels and ensure that available dollars are best leveraged to award as many scholarships as possible without exceeding the appropriation.

Submitting payment requests is a two-step process, which involves generating the request and then submitting the request. Submit claims for individual ECACE Scholarship recipients via the "Student Detail: Payment" screen or in batches for a group of students via the "Payment Request Entry" screen.

Payment results are available in the ECACE system the morning following each payment run. Schools are encouraged to frequently check the system for payment results. A Payment Result Summary and Invoice Detail Report can be viewed or printed by selecting the report tab in the ECACE system. The report includes Payment Results and Payment Exceptions as well as Invoice Detail about the payment claim. The Payment Results/Exceptions report should be reviewed regularly to see which requests, if any, did not process as expected. Retain a copy of the report for each payment request submitted, so that the invoice number on the report can be matched with the voucher and the funds received from the State Comptroller's Office. After payment requests are processed, vouchers are generated and sent via e-mail to financial aid directors.

The disbursement of funds is processed by the State Comptroller's Office, and payments are made on a monthly basis. Allow four to six weeks for payment processing (i.e., from the date a claim is submitted until funds are received at the college). Refer to the State Comptroller's Website page for information on how to track payment.

For more information, refer to the following resources on ISAC's website:

ECACE Payment
ECACE Electronic Processing
ECACE User Guide (updated to reflect the 2023-24 processing cycle) 

Prequalification

Prequalification data for the 2023-24 ECACE Scholarship Program – based on the eligibility data reported by the applicants on their applications – is now available in the ECACE system.

Only records for students who have completed the online application process – which includes submitting a complete ECACE Scholarship Program application to ISAC and completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) that results in a valid expected family contribution (EFC) – and who meet all initial eligibility requirements (i.e., requirements other than those that must be verified by the college) are considered for prequalification.

Further details are provided at the ECACE Prequalification page, and in an August 2 e-Message. The ECACE User Guide, which may be accessed via the ECACE Electronic Processing page, has been updated to reflect the 2023-24 processing cycle.

Student List Available

A July 13 e-Message announces that colleges may view a listing of ECACE records by accessing the ECACE system and selecting the Student tab to display the "Student List Eligibility: View" screen. Data is displayed for all applications listing the institution as the college the student plans to attend (i.e., complete, incomplete and ineligible based on student-reported data applications are included).

Application Processing Pause

Because of the amount of funding already committed to students who had been approved for the ECACE Scholarship this academic year, awarding was paused for applications submitted on or after March 9, 2024. Applications submitted through March 8th were processed.

Students who applied on or after March 9th received a letter indicating that they were not being awarded a scholarship at that time, but that additional applications may be considered if funding became available.

Although the processing of applications was paused, the application remained available on this website until May 24, 2024, with a disclaimer that available money for 2023-24 had been committed, and ISAC would review further applications only if additional funding became available.

Applications already submitted or awards that were already made for this academic year prior to March 9, 2024 were not affected.

Applications

The 2023-24 ECACE Scholarship Program interactive application is no longer being accepted.

Applicants are also required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) for the same academic year that they are applying for the scholarship.

Both the ECACE application and the FAFSA must be completed and submitted on or before the date for priority access to funding. That date for the 2023-24 application was August 7, 2023. Applications received after that date were given consideration for as long as funding remained available after all timely, qualified applicants had been awarded.

Further details, including proof of employment requirements, are provided at the Application Procedures for the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity Scholarship Program page.

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