Frequently Asked Questions for Families
New Scholarship Program Available!
The new Illinois Tax Credit Scholarship Program, made possible by the Illinois Invest in Kids Act, encourages families to apply for scholarships that can help them attend non-public schools, including but not limited to many of the schools traditionally supported by the Big Shoulders Fund.
What is the Illinois Tax Credit Scholarship Program?
This new scholarship program provides an additional source of funding for scholarships that can benefit students enrolled in, or applying to, qualified non-public schools, including the schools traditionally supported by the Big Shoulders Fund.
What is an SGO?
An SGO is a Scholarship Granting Organization, a tax-exempt charity approved by the Illinois Department of Revenue to administer the Tax Credit Scholarship dollars. Families apply directly to SGOs to obtain a Tax Credit Scholarship. Donors contribute to the SGO, which then makes payments directly to scholarship recipients’ schools on their behalf. At least 95 percent of contributions made to the SGO must be spent directly on scholarships.
Big Shoulders Fund has been approved as an SGO by the Illinois Department of Revenue. We are approved to award Tax Credit Scholarships in Region 1 and Region 2 — including the following counties: Cook, Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, DuPage, Jo Daviess, Kane, Kendall, Lake, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, and Winnebago.
How is the program funded?
Funding becomes available as donors reserve tax credits and then make their contributions to qualifying Scholarship Granting Organizations like Big Shoulders Fund. Donors can begin reserving their tax credits on January 2, 2018, and continue to do so until all credits have been awarded for the year by the Illinois Department of Revenue. The number of scholarships awarded will depend on available funding.
How do I apply?
Applications are closed for the 2018-19 school year. Information about the 2019-2020 application will be shared as soon as it becomes available.
Big Shoulders Fund
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 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.
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? If I already have a Big Shoulders Fund scholarship, am I required to apply for an SGO 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. 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.
Can I apply to the Big Shoulders Fund for a Tax Credit Scholarship and also apply for other Big Shoulders Fund scholarships?
We intend to retain our “one student, one scholarship” policy and so families will have to choose the single scholarship for which they would like to apply. If you do not receive the Tax Credit Scholarship, and wish to attend one of our 76 partner schools, we highly encourage you to work with the school principal to apply through our existing scholarship programs in the fall of 2018. 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 in the spring of 2018, you can use the award to attend a qualified non-public school for the 2018-2019 school year. The Tax Credit Scholarship (Invest in Kids Act) is scheduled to begin in the 2018-19 school year, and continue through the 2022-23 school year. Extension of the law beyond that date is not guaranteed. Students who are awarded scholarships in the first year must reapply each year and will have priority to receive scholarships in subsequent years, subject to income levels and availability of funding. Siblings of scholarship recipients also will have priority in subsequent years.
Do I have to use my Tax Credit Scholarship at one of the 75 Big Shoulders Fund schools?
No, as long as unrestricted funding is available, 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. We anticipate that a sizable portion of our funding will be restricted to the school traditionally served by the Big Shoulders Fund, but encourage all eligible families to apply.