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Free College Money from Illinois State Government

That's right—the State of Illinois is giving away college scholarships and grants. Truth is, most states have higher education offices that do. One of the many reasons some states claim to have started lottery games is to help fund higher education.

If you're a resident of Illinois and/or planning to attend college there then your go-to source is the online site, College Zone, which is run by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. Here you'll find scads of sources for college funding—free money for your education based on everything from financial need to your own particular course of study.

General Scholarships for Illinois Students

General scholarships can be merit based or need-based and in most cases state governments offer some of both. As with most State-funded projects the current economy and legislation will directly impact funding availability, so keep up with the latest information as it becomes public. But to get you started have a look at the following ways to help you fund your education.

  • Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program is a prestigious program sponsored in every state. Top academic high school seniors across the state are qualified for consideration. Eligible criteria include top grades, enrollment in an undergraduate program, and passion for academic success. Awards are $1,500 annually and are renewable for 3 more years.
  • The Illinois General Assembly Legislative Scholarships are designed to provide scholarships to students enrolled in Illinois state schools. This program is sponsored by the Illinois Higher Education office.
  • If you possess an Illinois College Savings Bond you might be eligible for the Bonus Incentive Grant (BIG). Payouts range from $40 to $440 per $5,000 of bond. If eligible, funds can be used to help assist with educational expenditures at a college or university in Illinois.
  • Illinois Counties Association doesn't look to currently be active but check back from time to time to see if they've reinstated the program. When it is in effect it awards $1,000 to students attending full-time at an Illinois college or university while maintaining a 3.0 to 4.0 GPA.

Subject and Career Specific Free Aid Programs

Common workforce shortages that could spell disaster for state economies if left unattended include nurses, health care professionals, and teachers. In order to attract new students to such high-need careers, state governments often bundle attractive scholarships and loan forgiveness programs for interested candidates. Be on the look out for minority scholarships, as well.

  • Golden Apple Scholars program provides scholarship funds to disadvantaged students interested in pursuing teaching degrees with the intention to teach in Illinois. Students must be willing to teach in designated high need schools after graduation from a successful teaching degree program.
  • Illinois scholarships
  • Minority Teachers of Illinois Scholarship is open to ethnic minority students pursuing four-year degrees in teaching/education. Eligible candidates must be interested in teaching elementary or secondary school and able to work as a teacher in the Illinois public school system. Scholarships are up to $5,000 per academic year.
  • Illinois Future Teacher Corps is designed to attract academically talented but financially disadvantaged students to teaching, particularly in high need subjects—Science, Math, and foreign language. Candidates must be willing to work in disadvantaged Illinois schools.
  • Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver is one heck of a deal. If you’re passionate about teaching special education, any specialty, you’re willing to study at an Illinois public college or university AND teach special education in Illinois once you graduate, you could have all your college tuition costs waived, exempted—you don’t pay a dime.
  • Nursing Education Scholarship funds go to help student nurses pay for their nursing school degrees. You could study a vocational program, in a diploma program, 2-year Associates or 4-year bachelors to qualify. Hitch is you must be willing to go to work as a LPN or RN in an Illinois hospital or other healthcare facility in the state.
  • Medical Student Scholarship runs similarly to the Nursing. Eligible med students may have significant scholarship funds available if they are willing to work as doctors in high need healthcare facilities within the state following graduation.
  • The Allied Health Care Professional Scholarship and the Nurse Educator Scholarship Program also provide excellent scholarship dollars to students pursuing these career pathways.
  • Even if you choose hospitality over health care the Illinois Restaurant Foundation Scholarship has you covered. In order to receive financial assistance you need to be a permanent resident of Illinois and be accepted into an accredited culinary school or university. Applicants must also be attending full-time or with a minimum of 8 hours each term.

Veterans and Public Service Scholarships and Grants

In addition to career-specific scholarships and assistance based on financial need you may also be eligible for funding if you are the dependent of a soldier or pursing an education in public service.

  • The MIA/POW Scholarship is available to dependents of soldiers missing, killed in action, or disabled while serving during wartime. Eligible students must attend an Illinois state university or college.
  • The Truman Program is a prestigious honor awarded to up to 4 Illinois students studying to go in to Public Service. These $30,000 merit-based awards have been bestowed to Juniors studying a wide array of degrees such as engineering, economics, global studies, political science, and more.

So as you can see, if you're a resident of Illinois and trying to get your degree there are plenty of options to help fund your dreams. But again, scholarship programs come and go, depending on the economy. So visit the Illinois College Zone website for current funding levels as well as the current scholarships and grants being offered.