Scholarship Program Available to Illinois Families

CHICAGO- Lower-income Illinois families interested in sending their children to non-public schools, including Big Shoulders Fund schools, may qualify for a scholarship program that pays up to 100 percent of tuition costs for eligible families.

Big Shoulders Fund will accept applications online for the Tax Credit Scholarship Program beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday, January 22.

To qualify for the scholarship program, household income must be below 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or less than $75,300 for a family of four. An independent charitable organization serving 75 Chicago schools, Big Shoulders Fund provides access to a quality, values-based education for nearly 20,000 students.

"In the first year of the program, Big Shoulders Fund awarded nearly $8 million to more than 1,300 students attending 110 schools," said Josh Hale, President and CEO of Big Shoulders Fund. "Broadening the horizons for deserving children is our commitment at Big Shoulders Fund, and this program helps us reach even more families who want high-quality schools for their children."

Made possible by the Illinois Invest in Kids Act, the program provides a new source of funding for scholarships to help pay tuition for lower income students who want to attend qualified non-public schools, including Big Shoulders Fund schools in the Chicago area.

A survey of recipients by Big Shoulders Fund showed that 97 percent of respondents reported the program is having a high impact on their life - nearly 70 percent categorized this level of impact as life-changing.

The state of Illinois is offering tax credits to encourage donors to contribute money to Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGO), such as Big Shoulders Fund, which will then distribute the donations to qualifying non-public schools on behalf of students who meet the income and residency requirements for the 2019-20 school year. The number of scholarships awarded will depend on available funding.

Depending on the family income level, the scholarship may cover 50 to 100 percent of tuition costs and eligible fees. Priority for the Tax Credit Scholarship is given to eligible students who are currently receiving a scholarship through this program from any SGO, siblings of students who are receiving a Tax Credit Scholarship, members of a household whose previous year's total annual income does not exceed 185% of the federal poverty level, and families living in "focus districts", such as the city of Chicago. The program is available to new or existing students who are Illinois residents and meet the income requirements.

Big Shoulders is approved to award tax credit scholarships in Region 1 and Region 2 of Illinois, which includes the following counties: Cook, Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, DuPage, Jo Daviess, Kane, Kendall, Lake, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, and Winnebago.

Families can find out more about their eligibility and the application process at or by sending questions to

About Big Shoulders Fund

Founded in 1986 by Chicago business and civic leaders, Big Shoulders Fund has raised more than $350 million to date, creating wider access to a network of schools for underserved, low-income students and increasing the capacity of the schools through academic programs, scholarships and enrichment, leadership development, and operational strategy and improvements. The success of these investments is demonstrated by the fact that 95 percent of Big Shoulders Fund students graduate high school, 85 percent of graduating scholars enroll in college the year following high school, and alumni graduate from college, work, volunteer, and donate at rates higher than their peers. Big Shoulders has earned a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, America's largest evaluator of nonprofit, for eleven consecutive years, a distinction held by less than one percent of nonprofit organizations nationally. For more information, visit or call (312) 751-8337.

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