Big Shoulders Fund Tax Credit Scholarship Application opened on 1/22, to apply click here.

As anticipated, Big Shoulders Fund received a significant number of applications and at this time is no longer requiring applicants to upload documentation for proof of residence or proof of income. Even if the application does not ask you for your document uploads, please continue to submit your application. Your application and time-stamp are valid and will be saved when you submit your application.  Like all applicants, after submitting your application you will receive a confirmation email with your time-stamp. If funds become available, we will reach out to you via email for additional information. Please be assured that Big Shoulders Fund aims to serve as many families as possible. We continue to work closely with current and prospective donors of the program. Last year, we received nearly 12,000 applications and we were able to award nearly $8 million in Tax Credit Scholarships to more than 1,300 students attending 110 schools.

To make a change to your application, use this Application Change Request Form

For Verified Sworn Statement, if you did not file taxes, click here


FAQ’s for 2019-2020

What happens after I submit my application?

After submitting your application, you will receive an email with your date time-stamp.

Applicants who are in a priority group, submit a complete application, and were asked to attach documents, will receive a response regarding their eligibility for a scholarship within 10 business days.  Note that this is not notice of an award, but notice of your status on our scholarship waitlist.

Applicants who are in a priority group, submitted an application, were asked to attach documents, and from whom we need additional information, will receive an email requesting that additional information. You then must submit the requested information back to Big Shoulders Fund within 10 days of the request or your application will be declined.

Any applicant who submitted an application, but was not asked to attach documents, will be tentatively placed on our scholarship waitlist. If funding becomes available, Big Shoulders Fund will reach out to you by email for your proof of income and proof of address.

Applicants who are determined not to be in a priority group, but submitted an application, with or with our documents attached, will be tentatively placed on our scholarship waitlist. If funding becomes available, Big Shoulders Fund will review your application and reach out to you by email.

When will I know if I am receiving a scholarship? What do I do once I’ve received a scholarship?

Big Shoulders Fund awards scholarships between February and December as funding becomes available. If funding is available to award a scholarship to your student, an official award letter and School Commitment Form will be mailed and emailed to the email address provided on your application. The next step is to gain acceptance into the school. You will have 10 days to accept the scholarship by returning the school commitment form to Big Shoulders Fund. Please work with the school to complete this process.

Our ability to award scholarships is directly dependent on donations from our donors and to which schools those donors may restrict their funds.  We’re working diligently to both raise money and to process applications, but please know that our ultimate limiting factor in terms of awarding is the availability of funds.

If I receive a Tax Credit Scholarship, does that mean I am accepted to the school of my choice?

A Tax Credit Scholarship does not guarantee acceptance. Applicants must still apply and gain acceptance to a qualifying nonpublic school.

What happens if my family is on the waitlist?

In the event that additional funding becomes available after the initial round of awards is completed, Big Shoulders will review waitlisted applications in the order that they were received. For those families who receive awards at that time, new deadlines to gain acceptance will apply; these deadlines will be communicated in advance.

If your family does not receive a Tax Credit Scholarship, but is interested in a private education, we encourage you to work with the school leader at the private school of your choice to apply for financial assistance either through the school or through our private scholarship program.

For what school year are the scholarships awarded?

The Tax Credit Scholarship application that opens on January 22, 2019 is exclusively for the 2019-20 school year.  Students who are awarded scholarships must reapply each year.

I made a mistake in my application. What should I do?

You may submit a change by completing an Application Change Request form.

If the information you gave us isn’t enough to determine your eligibility for a scholarship, by law we are required to reach out to you for more information. Keep an eye out for an email from us if we need further information. If you provided an incorrect email address with your application, please also complete the Application Change Request.

If you forgot to apply for a child, please complete the application again for that child only. Note that you will have different timestamps for each child.  

Why was my application denied?

If a families Tax Credit Scholarship Application was denied, this means that the information provided for household income did not meet the income guidelines, as defined by the Illinois Invest in Kids Act.

Application Questions

Application Materials

  • For a "how to guide" of the Big Shoulders Fund Application, click here

  • For a “how to guide” of application in Spanish, click here

  • For a video walk through of the application, click here

  • For instructions to upload documents, click here

  • For Verified Sworn Statement, if you did not file taxes, click here

How do I apply for a Big Shoulders Fund Tax Credit Scholarship?

Online applications for the Big Shoulders Fund Tax Credit Scholarship open at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, January 22, 2019. On and after January 22, you can follow the application link to apply.

You will need to have on hand:

· Proof of household income:

o   1040s for all members of the household, or

o   Sworn statement from our website signed by parent/guardian that tax returns were not filed (additional proof of income may be requested.)

· Proof of address:

o   State issued ID/License,

o   Lease/deed, or

o   Utility bill

We are anticipating a large volume of applications on January 22. Please note that once we have received a significant number of applications, we will no longer require applicants to upload documentation for proof of residence or proof of income.  Even if the application does not ask you for your document uploads, please continue to submit your application. Your application and time-stamp are valid and will be saved when you submit your application and confirmed in an email. If funds become available, we will reach out to you for additional information.  For more information visit www.bigshouldersfundsgo.org.

How do I know if I am eligible for a tax credit scholarship?

Students who are residents of the state of Illinois and have limited household incomes (see Household Income Eligibility Chart) are eligible for the Illinois Invest in Kids Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Big Shoulders Fund is a registered Scholarship Granting Organization (SGO) and authorized to award scholarships in Region 1 and Region 2. If you reside outside of Region 1 and 2, please check the Illinois Department of Revenue website for a list of approved SGOs.

Keep in mind that eligibility is not a guarantee of award. Scholarships will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis primarily according to family income and residence as determined by state law. Furthermore, even eligible families may be placed on a waiting list based on our funding capacity. You may apply to multiple SGOs to increase your chances of obtaining a scholarship, though you can only accept one scholarship.

What School(s) can I apply for a Tax Credit Scholarship?

Applicants my only select one school (per child) to apply for when completing the application. Applicants can select any qualified school, which are any non-public school located in Illinois and recognized by the by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), or a school that is registered and becomes recognized by ISBE prior to June 30th. The current list of all qualified schools can be found here. We anticipate that a large portion of our funding will be donor restricted to our Big Shoulders Fund schools, however we will be glad to receive applicants for any qualified non-public school in Region 1 and Region 2.

If my student received a tax credit scholarship for the 2018/2019 school year, do we need to reapply?

Yes, the tax credit scholarship is not automatically renewable. Everyone must reapply each year and scholarships will be awarded primarily on a first come, first serve basis. See below for more information.

How do you determine which students are granted priority status for the scholarships?

Priority for the tax credit scholarship is given to;

·        Eligible students who are currently receiving a scholarship from any SGO,

·        Eligible students who are siblings of students who are currently receiving any tax credit scholarship,

·        Eligible students who are members of a household whose previous year’s total annual income does not exceed 185% of the federal poverty level, and

·        Eligible students who reside within a focus district.

Please note: these four categories receive the same weight for priority. No one category means more than another.

Such priority applications will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis to eligible families, according to funding availability. You must apply prior to April 1, 2019 to receive any priority. After April 1, 2019, scholarships will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis to all eligible families as funding is available.

How much will the scholarship cover?

Depending on your household income, eligible students may receive a scholarship that covers between 50 to 100 percent of tuition and eligible fees. Students whose household income is below 185 percent of the federal poverty level (e.g., $46,434 for a family of four) are eligible for 100 percent of qualifying tuition and eligible fees. Students whose household income is between 185 percent and 250 percent of the federal poverty level (e.g., between $46,435 and $62,749 for a family of four) are eligible to receive up to 75 percent of qualifying tuition and eligible fees. Those students whose household income is between 250 and 300 percent of the federal poverty level (e.g., between (62,750 and 75,300) qualify for a scholarship that covers up to 50 percent of qualifying tuition and eligible fees.

income table for tax credit scholarship

If my child does not currently attend a qualified non-public school, can we apply?

Yes! New students whose family income and/or residence qualifies them for the tax credit scholarship are eligible to apply.

If my child is already enrolled in a qualified non-public school, can we apply?

Yes! Currently enrolled students whose family income and/or residence qualifies them for the tax credit scholarship are eligible to apply.

What about my preschool student?

The state of Illinois established the Tax Credit Scholarship program for students in grades K-12 only; however, current 4-year-old pre-K students moving up to kindergarten for the 2019-20 school year are eligible to apply. Per the Illinois state law, a child must turn 5 on or before September 1st in order to be eligible for Kindergarten.

Why should I choose Big Shoulders Fund as my SGO?

In the last 10 years alone, Big Shoulders Fund has provided in excess of $60 million in scholarships so that more than 50,000 students could attend great private schools. Our programs provide a strong academic and social foundation beginning in elementary school, preparing students for quality high schools, and ultimately, college and career. Our graduates enroll and persist in both high school and college at rates above local and national peers. We don’t just provide money for scholarships – we support student achievement and vibrant, flourishing schools that prepare students to succeed in life.

Big Shoulders Fund has been working with schools and families for over 20 years. Keeping schools and families in mind, Big Shoulders Fund is here to support you.

Doesn’t Big Shoulders Fund already give out scholarships? How is this different?

The new tax credit scholarships are in addition to Big Shoulders Fund existing scholarship programs and are funded through a separate source. State law determines how recipients of tax credit scholarships are selected, whereas criteria for our current Big Shoulders Fund scholarship programs are based on parameters established by private donors that may be more or less restrictive than the requirements for the tax credit scholarship. Big Shoulders Fund will continue to award thousands of scholarships every year regardless of funding for the Illinois Tax Credit Scholarship Program. On average over each of the last five years, we provided more than 5,000 scholarships to students in the Chicagoland area.   

If I already receive a Big Shoulders Fund scholarship, do I automatically qualify for a tax credit scholarship?

No. Tax credit scholarships are separate from our existing private scholarship programs and require families to apply separately. In order to receive a tax credit scholarship, a family must apply to an SGO, such as the Big Shoulders Fund, and meet the income qualifications established by state law. Tax credit scholarships are then awarded based on a first come, first serve basis.

If I already have a Big Shoulders Fund scholarship, am I required to apply for an SGO scholarship?

No, as an organization, we remain open to a current scholarship family’s decision to apply for the tax credit scholarship. We encourage families to decide which option is best for them while considering all factors, such as renewability, overall scholarship value, etc.

Can I apply to the Big Shoulders Fund for a tax credit scholarship and remain eligible for other Big Shoulders Fund scholarships?

We intend to retain our “one student, one scholarship” policy. Therefore, if a student is awarded a tax credit scholarship, through Big Shoulders Fund or any other SGO, and another Big Shoulders Fund scholarship the family will have to choose the single scholarship they would like to maintain for their student. If you do not receive the tax credit scholarship, and wish to attend one of our 75 partner schools, we highly encourage you to work with the school principal to apply through our existing scholarship programs. Please contact your local school for more information about this process. 

What happens next year if I am awarded a scholarship this year?

If you receive a tax credit scholarship to the qualified non-public school of your choosing in the spring of 2019, you can use the award to attend that school for the 2019-2020 school year. The tax credit scholarship will be paid directly to your school of choice in the fall of 2019. NOTE: Students who are awarded scholarships must reapply each year.

Do I have to use my tax credit scholarship at one of the 75 Big Shoulders Fund schools?
No, based on the availability of funding, you can use your tax credit scholarship at any qualifying non-public school in Region 1 or 2 (see list here). Some funding may be restricted for use at one particular school or group of schools.  Big Shoulders Fund will award tax credit scholarships based on the school you select on your application.

What is my School District

Your school district is based on where you live. For example, if you live anywhere in Chicago, your school district will be Chicago Public School District 299. To look up your school district, you can visit the Illinois State Board of Education site and search using your address. We also suggest that you check to see if your school district is on the State’s list of focus districts.

What if I have more than one child applying for the Tax Credit Scholarship at the same school?

Families with multiple children are welcome to apply and encouraged to apply for children in one application. If one application is used, the children will all receive the same time-stamp and if eligible for a scholarship will be placed on the waitlist in the order in which you include them on the application. In the event that a multiple-child family is awarded the Tax Credit Scholarship, Big Shoulders Fund will work with the school to provide the appropriate tuition and eligible fees based on what that school charges for a family of that size.

What if I have more than one child attending multiple schools applying for the Tax Credit Scholarship?

For families with multiple children, you can select a unique school for each child while still using one application. Big Shoulders Fund will distribute awards based on each school's tuition and eligible fees and the funding available for each school.

Does my child need to be accepted in the nonpublic school of choice before applying for the Tax Credit Scholarship?

No, your child does not need to apply or be accepted to a nonpublic school before applying for the Tax Credit Scholarship, but you will be asked to choose a school when you apply. You can apply for the Tax Credit Scholarship first, and then apply to a school. Each nonpublic school may have their own admission requirements/timeline, therefore if you are interested in a particular school, it is advisable to simultaneously reach out to the school about its admission process.

When do I get my date time-stamp?

Application date time-stamps are recorded after completion of the first “eligibility screen” for the Big Shoulders Fund Tax Credit Scholarship Application. After the first screen, you MUST continue to complete the remainder for the application at the same time to save your date time-stamp. After completing the full application, the applicant will receive a confirmation email from Big Shoulders Fund with the date time-stamp. Note: all date time-stamps will be in military time.

The application did not ask for my documents, did I do something wrong?

On January 22, after Big Shoulders Fund has received a significant number of applications, we will no longer require the submission of attachments for proof of income and proof of address. This is a planned change in our application process. Applicants must continue completing the application, without attachments, in order to save their official date/time stamp. As funds become available in the future, we may reach out to applicants for their documents. 

For more information, please contact SGOapp@bigshouldersfund.org or call 312-751-8337.