JB Pritzker, Governor, State of Illinois

Grant Program for Exonerees

{ISAC Rules, Part 2743}

Program News
Program Overview
Eligibility Units

Program News

(last updated April 20, 2022)

Fiscal Year 2023

The 2023 fiscal year (July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023) appropriation for the Grant Program for Exonerees is $150,000.

Fiscal Year 2022

The 2022 fiscal year (July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022) appropriation for the Grant Program for Exonerees is $150,000.

The 2021-22 Grant Program for Exonerees interactive application is available, and specific details are provided below in the Application section of this page.

Because program funds are limited, encourage students to complete and submit the application as soon as possible.

NOTE: Students who are unable to access the interactive application may instead download and print a PDF version and then submit the completed application to ISAC.

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Program Overview

The Grant Program for Exonerees provides grant assistance to an individual who has been issued a pardon by the governor of the State of Illinois on the grounds of innocence of the crime for which that person had been imprisoned, or who received a certificate of innocence from a circuit court. The grant provides assistance toward tuition and mandatory fees for no more than two semesters per regular school year (the grant is not available for summer terms) for undergraduate or graduate study at Illinois public colleges and community colleges. Recipients may receive assistance for a maximum of the equivalent of four regular school years (eight semesters) of full-time enrollment.

In addition, the grant may be used to pay costs associated with obtaining:

  • a high school equivalency certificate from an Illinois Community College Board-approved provider (currently GED® or HiSET®), and up to one retest on each test module, and/or
  • an official transcript of test scores after successful completion of the high school equivalency test.

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To be eligible for the Grant Program for Exonerees, a student must:

  • be an Illinois resident
  • have received from the governor of the State of Illinois a pardon that was issued on the grounds of innocence of the crime for which that person was imprisoned, or have received a certificate of innocence from a circuit court
  • be an exonerated person who either:
    • has not yet received a high school diploma or a high school equivalency certificate and is completing a high school equivalency preparation course through an Illinois Community College Board-approved provider (currently GED® or HiSET®) and/or is seeking an Illinois high school equivalency certificate; or
    • is enrolled at an Illinois public college or community college in an eligible degree or certificate program

  • maintain satisfactory academic progress as determined by the college
  • not be in default on any student loan, nor owe a refund on any state or federal grant (Students in default, may re-establish eligibility)
  • not be incarcerated during the term(s) for which the grant is being requested

Please note that an applicant does not have to demonstrate financial need to receive this grant.

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Eligibility Units

Qualified applicants may receive Grant Program for Exonerees benefits for the equivalent of four regular school years (eight semesters) of full-time enrollment, which is measured in eligibility units. Recipients may accumulate up to 48 eligibility units.*

The amount of eligibility a recipient has used is determined by converting credit hours to eligibility units, as indicated below:

 Number of Hours Semester Term 
 12 or more hours 6 units
 6 - 11.99 hours  3 units
 0 - 5.99 hours  1 unit

Eligibility units are based on the enrolled hours for a particular term, not the dollar amount of the benefits paid.

Once payment processing ends for a school year, adjustments to the number of eligibility units that have been assessed 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 units).

* Full program benefits may be extended for one additional term if the recipient has accumulated fewer than 48 eligibility units but does not have enough units remaining for the number of hours in which they are enrolled for that term.

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Once available each year (typically in late summer), the Grant Program for Exonerees interactive application is available via the Program Applications & Status Checks area of the Student Portal. If an applicant is unable to access the online application, a PDF version of the application can be downloaded, printed, and then submitted to ISAC. Students should allow at least 4 weeks for processing of the application.

College should direct students to the Grant Program for Exonerees page in the Students & Parents area for more detailed information about the application requirements and process.

Applications are processed in date-received (i.e., "first come, first served") order. For priority consideration each year, a complete application – including any supporting documentation, must be submitted (if applying online) or postmarked (if applying with the PDF version) as soon as possible after it becomes available. Because the number of grants awarded is based on limited annual funding, it is possible that not all applicants will receive a grant.

Qualified applicants will be sent a Notice of Eligibility letter from ISAC. Unfunded qualified applicants, if any, will be awarded only if funds become available due to previously-awarded recipients being deemed ineligible through the payment certification process that is performed by awardees' colleges. Individuals who do not meet the criteria to be a qualified applicant will receive a Notice of Ineligibility. If an application is incomplete, a Notice of Incomplete Application will be sent to the applicant to request the missing information. Processing cannot take place prior to the date a complete application is received in ISAC's Deerfield office.

Eligibility in one academic year does not carry over to future years, therefore, students must apply for the Grant Program for Exonerees annually.

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The Grant Program for Exonerees funds can be applied only to tuition and mandatory fees and only for two semesters or three quarters in a regular school year. Grant proceeds are disbursed in multiple installments, depending upon the number of terms financed by the grant; with the exception that multiple disbursements will not be required in cases where the applicant’s eligibility is not determined until the final term of the academic year for which the grant is being awarded.

A Certification of Enrollment for Payment is sent to the institution to be completed as part of the payment process. Payment of grant proceeds is requested each term by the institution. ISAC authorizes a voucher in the amount of the payment claim and submits it to the State Comptroller's Office which issues payment to the institution.

If a recipient withdraws from enrollment after the expiration of the tuition refund/withdrawal adjustment period, the recipient shall receive a grant for costs incurred up to the term award provided that the institution’s tuition refund policy indicates the recipient had incurred such charges. A recipient shall agree to notify ISAC, in writing, within 15 days of any change affecting their enrollment status, name or address.

The total number of grants awarded in a given fiscal year is contingent upon available funding. If funding is insufficient to pay all eligible applicants of the grant, awarding will be based on the date the completed application is received in ISAC's Deerfield office. Preference may be given to renewal applicants, provided that the recipient continues to meet the eligibility requirements.

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