School Fee Waivers

School Fee Waivers
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Last updated: July 2012

Most public schools in Illinois charge students annual mandatory fees for book rental and/or materials and services needed to take part in classes and other school activities. However, Illinois law provides relief to low-income families in the form of fee waivers.

All public elementary and secondary schools in Illinois must waive the school fees of students who qualify for a fee waiver. If you qualify for a fee waiver, the school district must give up its right to collect school fees from you and cannot collect these fees. If you qualify for a fee waiver, you will not have to pay school fees for that year.

Who is eligible for a fee waiver?

Illinois law provides that everyone whose family income is at or below the Free Lunch or Breakfast Program guidelines qualifies for a fee waiver. If you are eligible to receive free lunch at your school, you are eligible to receive a fee waiver.  

Since each school district determines which students qualify for a waiver, you need to check with your school to see what their standards are. Your school may be more generous than the law requires, but they must at least give waivers to all who qualify for the Free Lunch Program.

How do you get a fee waiver?

You must apply at your school for a waiver. School fees are collected at the start of the year or of a new semester. You should ask your school officials for a waiver then.

Your school should have simple waiver forms that you can fill out, sign and turn in. The school should then inform you whether your waiver was approved or denied. If your school does not have waiver forms, they still must give you a fee waiver if you qualify. If no forms exist at your school, you should ask the school official that collect school fees, in writing, for a waiver.

Which fees are covered by a waiver?

Textbook rental charges must be waived for students who qualify for a fee waiver. This does not included fees charged by the school for lost or damaged textbooks. In addition to textbook rental charges, some examples of fees that must be waived include:

  • Charges or deposits collected by a school for use of school property (this includes locks, towels, laboratory equipment, etc.)
  • Charges for field trips
  • Charges for deposits for uniforms or equipment related to varsity and intramural sports, or to fine arts programs
  • Charges to participate in an extra-curricular activity (this does not include admission to school dances admission or to athletic events)
  • Charges for supplies to participate in a class (this includes shop or home economics materials, laboratory or art supplies, etc.)
  • Graduation fees (this includes caps, gowns, etc.)
  • School record fees
  • School health service fees
  • Driver's education fees

Am I entitled to a refund of fees already paid?

If you paid your school fees this year and you qualify for a fee waiver, you may be able to get a refund if your district did not notify you that a waiver was available. You should immediately contact your schools official who collected the fee, and ask for a waiver and a refund.

Is punishment or discrimination against students for not paying school fees unlawful?

Under Illinois law, it is a criminal offense for school districts and their employees to punish students or discriminate against them because their parents have not paid school fees and are unable to pay them. For example, a school may not keep diplomas or report cards from students who qualify for a waiver and have not paid their school fees.

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