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Chicago Early Learning Workforce Scholarship

The Mayor’s Office, City Colleges of Chicago (CCC)- Harry S. Truman College, Chicago Public Schools (CPS), and the Department of Family & Support Services (DFSS) collaborated to launch the Chicago Early Learning Workforce Scholarship (CELWS) initiative. CELWS aims to support Chicagoans and the current Chicago Early Learning workforce as they pursue coursework to earn a credential, degree, endorsement, or licensure to work with young children (birth through Pre-k) and families in Chicago Early Learning programs.

The scholarship serves an important role in Chicago’s efforts to expand access to early learning across the city and build a more robust workforce that can help Chicago expand high quality early learning programs. CELWS provides recipients with meaningful career pathways through partnerships with Institutions of Higher Education, which also offer students personalized supports as they navigate their desired course of study.

Who is Eligible?

There are two intended recipients of this scholarship:

  1. Current Chicago Early Learning program staff who would like to advance their career as early childhood professionals.
  2. Chicago residents interested in entering the early childhood workforce.

Who else is encouraged to apply?

Chicagoans who are:

  • Parents of children currently enrolled in one of Chicago’s early childhood programs
  • DACA recipients
  • Recent High School graduates (including upcoming 2021 graduating class) interested in pursuing a career in early childhood

Recipients must be eligible for employment in a Chicago Early Learning program. (Recipients cannot have any felonies and must be able to pass an FBI, State of Illinois, and Sex Offender background check.)

How the Scholarship Works

  • Amount: The scholarship will serve as a “last dollar” scholarship, meaning it will cover everything that students’ federal grants and other scholarships do not cover. Chicago Early Learning Workforce Scholarship (CELWS) applicants will be required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application process or certify they are ineligible for financial aid.
  • How to Apply: During the open period, applications are completed on the Chicago Early Learning website. Once complete, the applicant will receive follow-up as opportunities become available.
  • Education Partners: Upon scholarship award, recipients will be matched to a specific program at one of our partner institutions based on highest degree or licensure attained and the type of program the applicant is seeking. Currently, CELWS Higher Education partnerships include City Colleges of Chicago, National Louis University, Roosevelt University, and University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).
  • Work Requirement: Chicago Early Learning Workforce Scholarship recipients must commit to work in a Chicago Early Learning (CEL) Program (DFSS-funded community-based organization or CPS birth through Pre-K program) for a minimum of three years after the completion of their degree or approved education program.

Which academic/degree pathways are available?

  • Basic and Advanced Certificates
  • Associates Degree
  • Bachelor's Degree (Associate to Bachelor pathway)
  • Alternative Licensure (Alt-PEL)
  • Coursework to earn:
    • Endorsements
    • Gateways Credentials

Where Can I Learn More?

You can read more about our college/university partners and programs offered by visiting the links below:

More information on ECE Credentials can be found at Gateways to Opportunities, a professional development support system for Illinois.

Application Updates

Please continue to check the website and subscribe to the Chicago Early Learning mailing list here for updates and upcoming events. If you have any questions or need additional support, please contact

Additional Scholarship resources can be found at:

Frequently Asked Questions

Read These FAQs before applying:

Scholarship Work Commitment