If you are a teacher or an academically talented student pursuing a career in special education, you may be eligible for the Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver Program if you teach at one of the following Illinois schools that has been approved by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE):
- a nonprofit public, private or parochial preschool, or
- a nonprofit public, private or parochial elementary school, or
- a nonprofit public, private or parochial secondary school.
This program will exempt you from paying tuition and mandatory fees at an eligible institution for up to four calendar years, provided you have not yet obtained an initial licensure in any area of special education. Mandatory fees are those assessed by a college to every full-time student for each term. Examples include fees for activities, facility operations, grants, health, registration, technology, transportation and others. The college determines fees that are considered mandatory.
By receiving the tuition waiver, you must teach in Illinois in the field of special education. If this teaching commitment is not fulfilled, the amount of benefits received converts to a loan, and you must repay the entire amount plus interest. It is recommended that you monitor your college billing statements to keep track of the amount waived, in the unlikely event the tuition waiver converts to a loan. You can estimate the loan payments by accessing the Monthly Payment Estimates Calculator on this website.
SETTW recipients, including those who are pursuing or have secured a position as a Speech-Language Pathologist, should take note that in order to fulfill the teaching requirements, their position must be that of a “teacher”, as certified by their employing school official. A “teacher” is defined as a person who provides direct classroom-type teaching or classroom-type teaching in a non-classroom setting.
Accordingly, only if a Speech-Language Pathologist’s teaching position meets the above definition, and is certified as such by the school official, would the position be considered as fulfilling the SETTW teaching requirements.
NOTE: Effective beginning with the 2020-21 academic year, the Retention of Illinois Students & Equity (RISE) Act allows eligible Illinois undocumented students and transgender students who are disqualified from federal financial aid to apply for all forms of state financial aid. Further details are provided in the Pathway to Apply for ISAC Programs section of the RISE Act page.
To be eligible, you must:
- Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen or meet the “undocumented student” criteria of the RISE Act
- Be an Illinois resident
- Meet one of the following conditions: you are a high school graduate; or you are scheduled to graduate from an approved high school by the end of the academic year in which the award is made and you performed in the upper half of your graduating class according to performance-based academic data provided by the high school; or you hold a valid teaching license that is not in the discipline of special education
- Be enrolled, or accepted for enrollment, at one of the eligible public four-year colleges in Illinois (providing the institution offers a concentration in Special Education) as an undergraduate or graduate student seeking initial licensure in any area of special education
- Be enrolled in a program of special education within 10 days after the beginning of the term for which the waiver was initially awarded
- Not at any time have received cumulative Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver benefits that equal or exceed the program maximum of four calendar years (note that, once you obtain an initial licensure in any area of special education, you are no longer eligible for this program regardless of how many years you have used the waiver)
- Complete the application process by:
- submitting a fully-completed Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver Program application, which includes the Teaching Agreement/Master Promissory Note (in order to receive priority consideration for an award, the complete application must be received at ISAC on or before the March 1 immediately preceding the academic year for which the tuition waiver is requested),
- being certified as meeting eligibility requirements by the college at which you will use the tuition waiver, and
- accepting the tuition waiver (if one is offered)*
- Sign the application's Teaching Agreement/Master Promissory Note promising to fulfill the teaching commitment or repay funds received plus interest
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress as determined by your college
- Remain in attendance at the college on a continuous basis for up to four years (unless granted an approved leave of absence, in which case the course of study must be completed within six years)
- 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.
- Comply with federal Selective Service registration requirements (see the note at the top of this section for possible exceptions)
- Not receive funds from the Minority Teachers of Illinois (MTI) Scholarship Program or the Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois Program during the same term(s) for which you receive funds from the Illinois SETTW Program.
How to Apply:
The Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver (SETTW) Program Application/Teaching Agreement/Promissory Note is available online via the Program Applications & Status Checks area of the ISAC Student Portal. After entering and submitting your data, follow the on-screen instructions to print the completed application, sign it, and mail it to ISAC. Important: please note that the application is not complete until the Application/Teaching Agreement/Promissory Note, with an original ink signature, is received at ISAC.