The Gateways Scholarship Program is an individual-based scholarship opportunity, for practitioners working in early care and education. The program provides financial assistance for early childhood education and child development (ECE/CD) coursework and degrees offered through participating colleges and universities dependent on available funding. The Gateways Scholarship Program is administered by INCCRRA and funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

Practitioners employed by an Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS) licensed full-day, full-year*
child care program or family/group child care home, or IDCFS licensed school-age child care programs operating a
minimum of 9 months per year. Practitioners must also be working in one of the following positions:

  • In IDCFS licensed programs: Family Child Care Provider, Family Child Care Assistant, Group Home Provider, Group
    Home Assistant
  • In IDCFS licensed programs: Center Staff: Director, Assistant Director, Teacher, Assistant Teacher, School-Age Teacher,
    School-Age Assistant
  • In an ISBE Funded Preschool for All (PFA) program that operates for a minimum of 9 months per year: Teacher or Teacher's Aide.
  • *A full-day, full year program operates 8 or more consecutive hours per day, for a minimum of 47 weeks per year.


Gateways Scholarship recipients must:

  • Be educating and caring for Illinois children
  • Have been employed at their current center or home, for a minimum of one year
  • Have been employed in an ISBE Funded PFA program for one (1) full school year.
  • Work a minimum average of 15 hours per week or more on a continuous employment basis (includes work and benefit time)
  • Meet wage requirements
  • Be a citizen of the United States or legal alien
  • Commit to work in early care and education (ECE) or school-age child care for a period of time, based on scholarship type

A maximum of 15 semester hours or 23 quarter hours in a contract period. A contract period does not exceed one year.

  • First time participants are only allowed to register for up to 6 semester hours or 9 quarter hours in their first term.
  • Bachelor’s Degree applicants must have 55 transfer semester or 82 transfer quarterly hours accepted at participating 4 year institutions to apply, or a conferred Associate's degree.


The program will pay a certain percentage of tuition for eligible practitioners whose goal it is to earn:

  • A Certificate in ECE/CD
  • An Associate’s Degree in ECE/CD
  • A Bachelor’s Degree in ECE/CD
  • A Master’s Degree in ECE/CD
  • Coursework to advance on the Great START Wage Supplement Scale
  • Coursework towards a Gateways to Opportunity Credential
  • A bachelor’s or master’s degree related to program administration for ECE/CD
  • Coursework for Illinois Professional Educator licensure in Early Childhood
  • Early Childhood Student Teaching
  • Coursework for Bilingual/ESL Approval/Endorsement


Upon being found eligible and registering for coursework the Gateways Scholarship Program will pay the participating college and university a percentage of the cost of tuition, dependent on your income level.

The percentage paid by the Gateways Scholarship Program is determined through a sliding income scale, which is based upon your income:

% of tuition Gateways Scholarship Program Would Pay Applicant Responsibility to College or University Hourly Wage Gross Yearly Wage Working Full Time
100 0 up to $12.50 up to $26,020
90 10 $12.51 - $15.00 $26,021 - $31,220
80 20 $15.01 - $18.00 $31,221 - $37,459
70 30 $18.01 - $21.00 $37,460 - $43,699
60 40 $21.01 - $24.00 $43,700 - $49,920

Gateways Scholarship Program will not pay out of district costs.

If you are applying for scholarship funding for terms beginning prior to July 1, 2018, please contact us to request a application.

The application and information on how to apply are available on the Gateways to Opportunity website at
www.ilgateways.com or call 866-697-8278.

  • Applicants must submit required documentation along with a scholarship application.
  • Additional documentation may be required upon review of your application.


An official transcript is a transcript in a sealed envelope from an accredited college or university. The applicant should not
open this envelope. Official electronic transcripts are also accepted if sent from an accredited college or university to
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Copies of foreign evaluations may be accepted from the evaluation services found at

You will receive a notice within 30 days of the receipt of your completed and signed application and required documents informing you whether or not you are eligible. If eligible, you will be assigned to a Gateways Scholarship Counselor who will assist you throughout the scholarship process.

The Gateways Scholarship Program accepts applications year round.

  • Please submit your signed and completed application and required documents 3-6 weeks prior to the first day of class
    you intend to take.
  • Scholarship applications are processed and approved on a “first come, first serve” basis and dependent upon availability
    of funds.

Your signed application serves as your contract with the Gateways Scholarship Program.

All contracts end on the June 30th and may be renewed yearly on July 1st.

You may sign as many contracts as needed to complete a degree, certificate, licensure, endorsement or credential as
long as balances owed are paid, all grades are submitted and all Gateways Scholarship Program eligibility
requirements continue to be met. This includes a commitment period working in ECE or school-age child care.
To renew a contract, please call your Gateways Scholarship Counselor at 866-697-8278.

  • All required documentation must be submitted for a contract to be considered valid.


After receiving your eligibility letter, share the course(s) you wish to register for with your Gateways Scholarship Counselor
by completing and submitting the Participant Class Schedule found on the Gateways website.  After speaking with a Counselor, you may contact your school and register for courses. Please use
authorization time frames below:

Semester Hour Schools Authorization Timeframes Quarter Hour Schools Authorization Timeframes
Fall Semester: July 1st–August 31st Fall Quarter: July 1st–October 31st
Spring Semester: October 1st–January 31st Winter Quarter: November 1st–January 31st
Summer Semester 1: April 1st–May 31st Spring Quarter: February 1st–April 30th
Summer Semester 2: July 1st - July 31st Summer Quarter 1: May 1st–June 30th
  Summer Quarter 2: July 1st–July 31st


Authorizations are NOT allowed after deadlines.

The work commitment period to early care and education is dependent upon coursework completed and scholarship
type. Work commitment periods follow:

  • 6 months for completion of a coursework contract. Effective for contracts beginning July 1, 2013.
  • 1 year for AA completion
  • 1 year for BS or MS completion
  • 1 year for certificate, licensure, endorsement completion

The work commitment must be completed in one of the following early care and education settings:

  • IDCFS licensed full day, full year family/group child care home
  • IDCFS licensed full day, full year child care center
  • Licensed school-age program operating a minimum of 9 months a year
  • ISBE Funded Preschool for All program


If you are eligible for the Gateways Scholarship Program, your eligibility notice will tell you the percentage of your tuition that will be paid to your college or university.

  • You will be required to submit grade reports at the end of every term.
  • If you do not submit grades for two consecutive term you will not be allowed to register for next term.
  • You must make a commitment to ECE or school-age care.


If you leave your place of employment during a contract to work in another ECE or school-age program, you will need to
contact your Gateways Scholarship Counselor immediately at 866-697-8278 to discuss your scholarship options. If you leave
the field of ECE or school-age child care during your work commitment period, you will be required to reimburse INCCRRA the cost of your most recent contract.

Excelerate Program

ExceleRate Illinois helps you prepare children for success in school and in life.

It also provides standards, guidelines, resources and supports to help you make sensible changes that lead to better quality outcomes for children.