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:
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:
- 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.
ISAC will accept and consider for reimbursement expenses paid on or after January 1, 2016.
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:
- 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 your college
- 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
Please note that an applicant does not have to demonstrate financial need to receive this grant.
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 they are enrolled for that term.
To view a listing of Illinois colleges approved to participate in this program, click on the link for the appropriate school year:
The Grant Program for Exonerees application for the 2023-24 academic year may be completed and submitted online via the Program Applications & Status Checks area of the ISAC Student Portal. 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. 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.
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.
- 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).
Payment of Tuition and Mandatory Fees
ISAC works with the college to disburse funds for the payment of tuition and mandatory fees. Mandatory fees are those assessed by a college that are required to deliver educational services to students for each term, regardless if the student is attending on-campus or through distance education. Examples include fees for activities, facility operations, grants, health, registration, technology, transportation and – when applicable – fees associated with online learning. The college determines fees that are considered mandatory.
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 paid on or after January 1, 2016, and 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.
- 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.
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 2023-24 School Year
(last updated on July 31, 2023):
The application for the 2023-24 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 are sent a Notice of Eligibility letter from ISAC.
- Unfunded qualified applicants, if any, are 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 receive a Notice of Ineligibility.
- If an application is incomplete, a Notice of Incomplete Application is 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.