Low-income student qualify for school fee waivers – cannot be barred from graduation & school functions

Every spring, the CCH Law Project gets phone calls from students and parents regarding public schools pressing to collect “past due” school fees before graduation and the end of the school year.

Yet homeless and low-income Illinois students – students who have qualified for free/reduced-cost breakfast or lunch at school – qualify to have their school fees waived. If waived, a fee is not charged and the student does not owe fees to anyone.

A student or parent must file a written request to have fees waived. If a student qualifies for a waiver, school officials cannot bar a student from attending prom or graduation or obtaining transcripts – though some students who call us for help have been incorrectly told this will happen if they don’t pay. 

Students and parents should phone the Law Project’s toll-free line if they need advice or legal aid regarding school fee waivers: (800) 940-1119

A fee waiver form (Chicago Public Schools form is linked here) should be filled out and turned into your school office. Suburban students should ask their school district if they must use their district’s own form.
Examples of school fees that must be waived for low-income students:

* Charges for textbooks and instructional materials
* Fees for field trips taken during school hours, or field trips taken after school hours if the field trip is a required or customary part of a class or school activity. This includes annually scheduled trips such as end-of-the-year or graduation field trips and activities.
* Graduation fees, including caps and gowns. Charges or deposits for uniforms or equipment for sports or fine arts.
* Charges for supplies for a particular class, such as shop or home economics materials, or laboratory or art supplies.
* Charges and deposits for use of school property, such as locks, towels, and lab equipment.
* Driver’s education fees
* Fees to obtain school records and health services

Schools do not have to waive some fees and costs, though schools often have programs to help students pay these. These fees and costs include ordinary school supplies, class rings, yearbooks, school photos and diploma covers, admission to school dances and athletic events and optional travel.