Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has announced that it is offering 2023-24 Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE) scholarships, now with expanded eligibility for those pursuing or interested in pursuing a credential or degree in early childhood education. The scholarship is now available at participating community colleges and universities beginning in a student’s freshman year, and depending on the participating institution and its programs, can be used for certain associate and bachelor’s degree programs, as well as for advanced degrees and endorsements.
At SIUE, the scholarship is available for students in the undergraduate early childhood education program. Detailed information about eligibility and a link to the 2023-24 scholarship application is available on the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) website at isac.org/ECACEscholarship.
“Our dean, Robin Hughes, Ph.D., did not hesitate to activate our invested faculty when the ECACE initiative launched,” said Natasha Flowers, Ph.D., assistant dean for anti-racism, equity and inclusion, and PI on the grant. “With more state-level support for ensuring culturally responsive pedagogy, credentialing more hardworking early childhood educators, and striving to leave no community without available, competent, inclusive early education, SEHHB will not refuse the resources to build on our momentum.”
The ECACE scholarship is designed to help address the shortage of qualified early childhood educators and to build a strong, well-prepared workforce in the field. The scholarship was developed in partnership with the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), and the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development (GOECD), and is funded by IDHS. To be eligible for the ECACE scholarship, those who are seeking credentials and/or a degree in early childhood education must currently be working or have worked in the early childhood field. This includes applicants who work or have worked in family childcare and center-based care settings. Other eligibility requirements for the scholarship, and a list of participating institutions, are available on ISAC’s ECACE Scholarship webpage.
“The ECACE funding recognizes and is responsive to the needs of the current early care and education workforce, which are primarily women, including women of color,” said Stacie Kirk, Ph.D., professor, early childhood education program director and co-principal investigator (PI) on the grant. “These are professionals who often are not able to go back to school and increase their education and knowledge base because they need to continue working full time to support their families.”
The scholarship can cover as much as the total cost of attendance (which can include tuition and fees, room and board, books, and transportation) for an academic year (including summer) after other financial aid received. Recipients of the scholarship are expected to continue or return to teaching or direct services in the early childhood care and education field in Illinois after they complete their program of study.
To apply for the scholarship for the 2023-24 academic year, students should complete the 2023-24 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) if they have not already done so, as well as the ECACE scholarship application, and provide required documentation. Eligible students who are currently enrolled in a participating institution are encouraged to work with their financial aid advisor.
ECACE also offers student support specifically designed for working adults. ECACE navigators provide personalized assistance to students in navigating the postsecondary education application and financial aid process. Students and prospective students in early childhood education need only complete a simple form to connect with a navigator. Once in a postsecondary program, the student will work with a program coach and/or mentor from the institution, who will provide additional support to the student to help them persist and complete their studies.
“The ECACE Scholarship is a critical component of the state’s strategic plan for higher education to advance the early childhood workforce and increase opportunity through equitable access to higher education for those working in childcare,” said ECACE Co-Project Director at IBHE Christi Chadwick.
“These scholarships help ensure that we fill a critical workforce gap,” said ICCB Deputy Director for Academic Affairs and Student Success and ECACE Co-Project Director Dr. Marcus Brown. “We look forward to continuing to expand the early childhood workforce to better serve Illinois families through highly skilled professionals that reflect the diversity of the state.”
The School of Education, Health and Human Behavior prepares students in a wide range of fields, including public health, exercise science, nutrition, instructional technology, psychology, speech-language pathology and audiology, educational administration, and teaching and learning. Faculty members engage in leading-edge research, which enhances teaching and enriches the educational experience. The School supports the community through on-campus clinics, outreach to children and families, and a focused commitment to enhancing individual lives across the region.