CHICAGO, Ill. (WEHT) The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) has announced the launch of the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equality (ECACE) scholarship for the 2021-22 schoolyear. This was created to address the shortage of early childhood educators and build a strong, well-prepared workforce in this field.

“ISAC looks forward to serving Illinois through the new ECACE Scholarship, part of a broader investment that will improve equity and access not just for those working in the early childhood field, but also for the families that will benefit in myriad ways from an expanded, diverse and highly skilled workforce,” said Eric Zarnikow, Executive Director of ISAC. “Scholarship funds are available for this current 2021-22 academic year, so we want to encourage interested students to apply as soon as possible.”

The scholarship covers the full cost of attendance for the 2021-22 schoolyear after other financial aid has been received. Students at participating nonprofit private schools may receive no more than the cost of the most expensive study program that would be available at an Illinois public college–again, after other financial aid has been applied. On completion of the study program, recipients are expected to return either to childcare or early education work.

Those wishing to apply for the scholarship must have prior work experience in early childhood education or be currently employed in that field. This includes work in family childcare or center-based care settings. A Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the schoolyear must also be completed in order to apply.

The ECACE scholarship will also involve student support geared towards working adults. These “navigators” will help with the application and financial aid processes. Once admitted to a study program, ECACE-eligible students will also receive additional support to help them along in their studies.

“This scholarship program will help remove financial barriers for community college students throughout our state to continue their education and create a better life while filling a critical workforce gap in Illinois,” said Brian Durham, Executive Director of the Illinois Community College Board.

For more information on the scholarship, click here. For additional information on ISAC, click here.