Impact: Big Shoulders Fund Tax Credit Scholarship Program

Since inception, Big Shoulders Fund’s mission has been grounded on the fact that we are for the children. When the opportunity presented itself to expand our reach and help to serve a greater population of students through the Tax Credit Scholarship Program, made possible by the Illinois Invest in Kids Act, we knew that it was something we had to be a part of.

In January of last year, Big Shoulders Fund opened its Tax Credit Scholarship Program application for the first time. From our conversations with school administrators and families, we learned that this initiative would have a positive impact in the lives of many but when the count came in of more than 12,000 applications in two days, we were in awe of the demand for the program. In year one, Big Shoulders awarded nearly $8M in scholarships to more than 1,300 students attending 110 schools. The median household income of our awardees was $22,500, with an average of four family members per household.

To help measure the impact of the program, it was important to us to hear from recipients themselves. An anonymous survey was sent to all recipients of a Big Shoulders Fund Tax Credit Scholarship for the 2018-2019 school year. 473 respondents completed the survey totaling to a response rate of 54 percent.

Here is what we found: 

“The Illinois Tax Credit Scholarship has made a difference in my son’s life, my life, and has made it possible for a lot of families to afford private education. In light of the violence being plagued by the city of Chicago, it is a true blessing to know I can afford to send my son to a school that is not only safe, but teaching him to be a productive citizen. I am forever grateful. Thank you!”

“I would like to thank you for supporting this amazing initiative. Many children, including my son, are able to benefit from an exceptional educational opportunity because of your support. I am extremely grateful and hope that you continue to make a positive impact in children’s educational endeavors.”

On January 22, Big Shoulders Fund reopened its Tax Credit Scholarship application for families to apply for scholarships for the 2019-2020 school year. Given the first-come, first-served nature of the program and the limited funding, we knew this could be a stressful process for families. From Facebook Live Q&A’s to hosting informational seminars, the Big Shoulders Fund team collaborated to make this a positive experience for applicants. The day the application opened, we set-up a call center in our offices so that parents/guardians could get real-time support on the phone while applying, and hosted five application sites across the City. We received more than 12,000 applications on the first day the application opened, once again reflecting tremendous demand. As of today, 13,100 applicants are on our waitlist.  As we receive contributions, we will award scholarships to as many eligible families as possible.

We continue to support and raise funds for this program, because we know the impact. This program expands access to educational options for students. Survey results show that alumni of Big Shoulders Fund schools graduate, work, and donate to charity at a much higher rate than their peers thereby, strengthening their communities and the City as a whole. We here at Big Shoulders Fund, are very proud of what we have been able to accomplish and continue to achieve through the Tax Credit Scholarship Program as well as through our traditional privately funded scholarship program.

The Tax Credit Scholarship Program has added to the support we give the schools. Many of our supporters have stepped up to help us continue to expand. The program has truly been additive and not taken away from funding and support of our private scholarships and the other services we provide our schools each year. We thank you, the supporters, for your continued commitment to our students and our mission. You are truly #paralosniños. 

Donors to the Big Shoulders Fund Tax Credit Scholarship Program receive a 75 percent credit, of the total contributed, toward their Illinois income tax. To learn more on how you can participate and make a difference in a child’s life this year, please visit and/or contact Amy Drozda or at 312.751.3850.