Skip to Content JB Pritzker, Governor, State of Illinois

Grant Program for Exonerees

The number of grants made through this program, as well as the individual dollar amount awarded, are subject to sufficient annual appropriations by the Illinois General Assembly and the Governor.

You may either scroll through this page, or click on any of the following links to go directly to a specific topic:

Program Description
Eligibility
Eligibility Units
How to Apply
Changes to Application Data
How Funds Are Disbursed
Details
Processing Updates
Participating Schools

Program Description

If the Governor of the State of Illinois has issued you a pardon on the grounds of innocence of the crime for which you had been imprisoned, or you have received a certificate of innocence from a circuit court, you may be eligible to receive funds from the Grant Program for Exonerees. This 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. You 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:

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Eligibility

To be eligible, you 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 you had been imprisoned, or have received a certificate of innocence from a circuit court
  • be an exonerated person who either:
  • maintain satisfactory academic progress as determined by your college
  • comply with federal Selective Service registration requirements
  • 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)
  • not be incarcerated during the term(s) for which the grant is being requested
  • not accept or receive financial assistance through the Monetary Award Program (MAP) during any regular school year for which you are requesting funds from the Grant Program for Exonerees

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 units


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 he or she is enrolled for that term.

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How to Apply

The application for the Grant Program for Exonerees, which must be submitted each school year in order to apply for program benefits, is available online via the ISAC Programs area of the ISAC Student Portal. After entering and submitting your data, follow the on-screen instructions to print a copy of the completed application for your records.

If you are unable to access the online application, you may instead download and print a PDF version and submit the completed application to ISAC.

You must submit a new application each year you wish to be considered for a grant.

Applications are processed in date-received (i.e., "first come, first served") order. For priority consideration each year, your complete application – including any supporting documentation, as outlined on the application – must be submitted (if applying online) or postmarked (if applying with the PDF version) as soon as possible after it becomes available (the Applications page of this website is updated when each year's application 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.

Even if you are not certain where you will be attending college in the fall, you are strongly encouraged to submit a complete application as soon as possible, listing the Illinois public college or community college you are most likely to attend. If you then decide to attend a different approved college after your application has been submitted, you must report that change to ISAC, as described below in the Changes to Application Data section.

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Changes to Application Data

Only one application for this program may be submitted per regular school 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.

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).

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How Funds Are Disbursed

Payment of Tuition and Mandatory Fees

ISAC works with the college to disburse funds for the payment of tuition and mandatory fees. 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. Dependent on the level of State of Illinois funding at the time of the request, the amount of time it takes for funds to arrive at the college can vary anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

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 or Business Office to determine the college's policy.

Reimbursement of Costs Associated with Obtaining High School Equivalency Certificate

Program funds for the reimbursement of costs associated with obtaining a high school equivalency certificate, or obtaining an official transcript of test scores, are paid directly to the grant recipient. After ISAC confirms that an applicant is eligible for reimbursement, the necessary information is submitted to the State Comptroller's Office for processing so that the recipient can be paid.

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Details

  • For the 2019-20 academic year, applications are processed in date-received order ("first come, first served").
    • If priority application consideration dates are established in future academic years, they will be listed on the application and announced via this website.
  • The total number of grants awarded in a given fiscal year is contingent upon available funding.
  • Grants will continue to be announced, both to qualified applicants requesting payment of tuition and mandatory fees and to those seeking reimbursement of costs associated with obtaining a high school equivalency certificate, until all available funds for that year have been awarded.

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Processing Updates

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 2019-20 School Year

(last updated on August 15, 2019):

The application for the 2019-20 Grant Program for Exonerees is currently available. Because program funds are limited, you are encouraged to complete and submit the application as soon as possible.

Allow at least four weeks for the processing of the application.

  • 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.

Click here to access the Grant Program for Exonerees application.

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Participating Schools

To view a listing of Illinois colleges approved to participate in this program, click on the link for the appropriate school year:

2019-20
2020-21

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