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DFI - Guidelines and Responsibilities


The goal of DFI is to increase the number of minority full-time tenure track faculty and staff at Illinois’ two- and four-year, public and private colleges and universities. 

History of DFI

The Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois Program (DFI) was established by the Illinois General Assembly and signed as Public Act 093-0862 (Appendix B) on August 4, 2004. Only students interested in employment in higher education are awarded this highly competitive fellowship. 

DFI serves as a program of financial assistance to implement the policy of encouraging minority students to enroll and complete academic programs at the post baccalaureate level and to enhance the diversity of faculty and staff of Illinois institutions of higher education. The Board of Higher Education shall provide administrative assistance for the Program Board and shall distribute funds appropriated by the General Assembly for this purpose in accordance with decisions made by the Program Board. 

Board Membership

The Program Board comprised of 11 members and shall be appointed by the Board of Higher Education. Persons appointed to the Program Board shall include, but need not be limited to, individuals who are in Leadership positions in institutions of higher education, including community colleges. Illinois institutions that grant doctoral degrees must have representation on the Program Board. 

The IBHE shall assure that racial minorities who are traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education programs and activities are members of the Program Board.

Board of Directors Responsibilities

  1. Formulate policy and strategies for administration of the DFI grant program authorized under this Act, including criteria to promote placement of grant recipients.
  2. Review and approve applications for participation in the DFI grant program
  3. Establish subcommittees or panels as necessary including reviewing applications and promoting student placement
  4. Report annually to the IBHE on program outcomes and results, including lists of new and continuing scholarship award recipients by institution, level and fields of study; lists of recipients retained in the program from the previous year; lists of placements of most recent program graduates; a description of institutional efforts to place program graduates; and a description of policy and administrative actions designed to increase placement of grant recipients.

Board Meetings

Board will meet as needed and no less than three times per year, in fall, spring and summer at various locations throughout Illinois.

DFI Chair and Vice Chair Responsibilities

Chair and Vice-Chair are appointed by the Illinois Board of Higher Education for a two-year term.


• Serve as liaison between Program Board and Illinois Board of Higher Education.
• Serve as spokesperson for the Board.
• Appoint sub-committees to establish and follow through with policies and procedures.
• Serve on Executive Committee.
• Plan and conducts Board meetings.
• Ensure that all required reports are submitted in a timely manner.

Vice Chair:

• When appropriate, perform duties of chair.
• When appropriate, conduct meetings and perform duties of chair.
• Serve as member of executive committee.

DFI Administrator Responsibilities

• Maintain an up-to-date computer database on applicants/current and past fellows.

• Maintain contact and monitor Fellows throughout program and beyond.

• Prepare required and related reports as requested.

• Work with Board and Institutional Representatives to implement program’s policies and procedures.

• Organize, direct and coordinate the application process for DFI funding with the admissions process at participating institutions.

• Administer program awards.

• Formulate budget recommendations and manage DFI fiscal accounting program.

• Maintain complete and accurate academic, financial and other appropriate files and records for individual fellows and the program.

• Monitor and maintain fellows’ academic progress reports submitted by the individual students and institutional representatives.

• Direct efforts to place graduates into appropriate faculty and staff positions in Illinois institutions of higher education.

• Lead efforts to market/promote the program statewide.

• Coordinate DFI Board and selection meetings.

• Plan and implement the Annual Fellows Conference and other professional development activities.

• Promote program and direct and coordinate relations with institutional representatives and students.

• Select and supervise all assigned program staff.

• Plan, direct and coordinate program placement and activities.

Institutional Membership

Any institution of higher education in Illinois that offers post-baccalaureate academic programs may participate in DFI.Each cooperating DFI institution has an institutional representative who acts as local administrator of the DFI award. Institutions are strongly encouraged to provide tuition scholarships/waivers for DFI awardees.

Institutional Responsibilities

• Governing Board and Chief Campus Administrative Officer, i.e. President/Chancellor commits to participate in program and when appropriate actively seek and hire graduates of the DFI Program.

• Provide professional and growth opportunities to Fellows.

• Provide Fellows responsible professional Leadership.

• Ensure that Fellows adhere to all program requirements, i.e. request for resumes and other follow-up information, participation in annual conferences.

• Commit to increasing DFI faculty members each year.

DFI Institutional Representative Responsibilities

The participating institutions’ president shall appoint one DFI Representative to be responsible for administering the DFI fellowship on each campus. Representatives should be easily accessible to Fellows and fellowship applicants, and have access to student data such as enrollment and financial information.

The DFI Institutional Representative with the support and cooperation of the institution:

• Publicizes DFI Program on campus to administrators, faculty, staff and students.

• Actively recruits students who will be eligible for DFI awards and verifies to the Administrator that applicants for the fellowship meet all eligibility requirements including financial need.

• Works with students to complete application process and certify financial eligibility.

• Directs and coordinates campus review of applicants and submission of selected applicants for consideration by DFI Board.

• Provides professional opportunities for Fellows.

• Attends annual conference.

• Serves as liaison with the DFI Board in order to contribute to ongoing policy discussions and when requested participate in selection process.

• Sends DFI fellows’ enrollment verification at the beginning of each term, and institutional contracts to the Administrative Office according to annual deadline.

• Ensures that Fellows consistently prepare and submit required reports and information required by the Program.

• Maintains records for institutions’ award recipients, including program application materials, contracts and records of payments.

• Provides award recipients with academic and support services, such as mentoring, counseling, and other activities (including the use of placement services) that enhance the chances for degree completion and success in achieving the goals of the program.

• Supervises and distributes fellow's stipends.

• Provides to the Administrator written notification of any interruption of the payment process within two weeks after the occurrence.

• Reviews, certifies, and forwards to the Administrator by the deadline date of each year (established due date set annually) all new applications and renewal forms from eligible students

• Provides graduation, termination, and placement data for current and former fellows.

• Helps secure additional funding for fellowship recipients once DFI funding has been exhausted to help the student complete his/her program.

Fellows Responsibility

• Remain enrolled as full-time student in qualified Illinois institution of higher education and to maintain satisfactory academic progress, as defined by their institution.

• Attend DFI Annual Fellows Conference. (If funds are available to host one.)

• Accept, actively seek and, when offered, accept a teaching or non-teaching full-time employment at an Illinois institution of higher education including a community college or accept a position as an employee of the State of Illinois in an administrative educational related position for the period equal to the number of years that she or he was a participant in the DFI fellowship. Fellows who fail to fulfill this condition shall be required to repay 20 percent of their cumulative award amount.

• Repayment must begin no more than 12 months after the Fellow ceases being enrolled at the funding institution.

• Required to provide the DFI Administrative Office with current address, academic progress and employment information and report any status changes.

• Adhere to the appropriate payback provision.

• Required to fulfill program requirements, i.e. formal exit interview, prepare and submit annual employment plan as a condition of continued program participation.

Tax Reporting Guidelines (pdf)

Sponsor's Responsibilities

• Must be full-time tenure track faculty member and identified in the first six months of students’ first year of funding.

• If identified when application is submitted, help prepare an educational plan that will be included in the student’s application package.

• Provide academic and professional guidance and support throughout participant’s academic program.

Eligibility for DFI Fellowship

To be eligible to participate in DFI, the institution shall verify that the applicant is:

• An Illinois resident, any U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien who meets either of the following requirements:

--Possess a baccalaureate degree from an accredited educational institution in Illinois.

--Possess a baccalaureate degree from an accredited educational institution outside of Illinois and has lived in Illinois as defined on the DFI application.

• Member of an underrepresented racial group as defined in the act: Black/African American, Hispanic American, Asian American, American Indian, Alaskan Native or Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander;

• Unconditionally admitted as a student pursuing a doctorate or master's degree in an Illinois participating institution.

• Will pursue the degree objective as a full-time student, as defined by the institution;

• Will sign an agreement to meet the employment conditions upon graduation if a DFI award is accepted;

• Demonstrates financial need such that in the absence of a DFI grant the individual would be prevented from pursuing a graduate degree, and financial need as certified by the graduate institution meets or exceeds the amount of the award; (Note: Calculating financial need is a complex process involving not only income, but marital status, number of children, financial assets and property, as well as the student’s age. The student must complete a FAFSA prior to application to determine financial need.)

Demonstrates academic ability to pursue a graduate or professional degree, as evidenced by the following:

--Completion of a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution of higher learning;

--Minimum grade point average of 2.75 on a grade scale of 4.00=A in the last 60 hours of undergraduate work; or over a 3.2 in at least 9 hours of graduate study;

--Unconditional admission to a post-baccalaureate degree program at a DFI participating institution; and

--Three letters of recommendation from professionals who can comment on fellow’s potential to complete degree program and obtain a full-time professional teaching or administrative position in higher education.

Continuing Eligibility

In order to maintain eligibility in the program and in order to be considered for renewal of the DFI fellowship a fellow must:

• A minimum grade point average of 3.0 (scale 4.0 = A);

• Show progress toward completion of the requirements of the course of study;

• Continue to meet financial need requirements;

• Submit requested/required materials in a timely manner.

• Attend Annual Fellows Conference.(If funds are available to host one.)

• Submit renewal application (if eligible) each year by the deadline.

Conditions of DFI Award

• Agree to accept a teaching or non-teaching full-time appointment at an Illinois post-secondary educational institution after completion of his or her academic program.

• The recipient accepts such position or positions for a period equal to the number of years that he or she was a participant in DFI.

• Failure of the recipient to fulfill the award conditions as provided in Subsections a. or b. above may result in the recipient repaying 20 percent of the total amount of the award on a 10-year repayment schedule.

• Exceptions: Recognizing that there will be specific instances when, for reasons beyond their control, award recipients may be unable to satisfy the employment expectations of the program, requests for exceptions will be considered.Such requests for exceptions will be made to a committee consisting of two representatives from the DFI Board of Directors and one faculty member, each representing a different participating institution. A representative from the IBHE and the DFI administrator will serve as ex-officio members of the committee.

• All grants are subject to the provisions of the Illinois Grant Funds Recovery Act (Ill. Rev. State. 1989, chi. 127, pars. 2206 et seq.)

Terms of DFI Award

• DFI award recipients in doctoral programs are eligible for up to four years of support. Those in master’s degree programs may receive awards for up to two years.To receive the full annual award, a student must begin enrollment with the beginning of the fall semester or quarter. Students whose first enrollment of the year begins with the second semester or quarter may receive no more than half of the annual award for the year.

• Recipients must be enrolled full time as defined by the institution for at least 9 months out of the full year (or two semesters, or three quarters).

• Funds must be disbursed on a monthly basis or in the same manner as other institutions’ stipends.

• Funds may not be disbursed in lump sums for the entire semester or year.

• Awards must be encumbered by June 30 of each year.

• If the academic and/or enrollment status of a recipient changes in such a way as to affect his or her eligibility status, the institution shall take immediate action to make appropriate adjustments in payments and inform the administrative office.

• Holding an assistantship or employment while on a DFI award is subject to institutional policy.

• Award recipients shall hold no other substantial scholarship or fellowship concurrently with the DFI.

• Leaves of absence must have the recommendation of the institutional representative, be approved by the institution, and be approved by the DFI Program Board. Leaves can be granted for one or more academic terms totaling no more than 12 months.

• Award stipends will not be paid during the leave of absence. Students taking a leave in excess of 12 months may reapply for a new award for the length of time remaining in the original award. The resolution does not jeopardize continuation of award.

• Deferral of stipend for fellows will only be allowed for health and/or family emergency. (A fellow can take a leave of absence for one year and come back the following year. For example: a Ph.D. student takes a leave of absence in the third year of funding. He/she can come back for the fourth year of funding. The fellow gives up one year of funding. The fellow would get a total of three years of funding.) Institutional representatives must notify the administrative office of the length and conditions of an approved leave as soon as it is granted so as to allow reallocation of awards to other students. Additional notification should be given by April 15 for leaves to begin September 1, by October 15 for leaves during the second half of the academic year.

• The award granted to any DFI recipient shall never exceed four years.

Application Procedures

The selection process has two major phases. The applicant initiates the first phase by submitting an application packet to a DFI institution. (It is the applicant’s responsibility to contact the institution he or she plans to attend to determine if there are internal application deadlines.) Each institution then determines which applications to forward to statewide competition. Only those applications forwarded to the statewide selection process are considered for DFI awards.

In the second phase, a statewide selection committee reviews the applications of those nominated by participating institutions and selects award recipients. Members of the DFI Board will participate on the review and selection committee.

All application materials must be submitted directly to the institutional representative at the institution where the student plans to attend no later than the deadline of application (established due date set annually), or by the internal deadline set by the institution.

Applications are due to participating institutions. As part of the application process, the following written materials must be submitted by the student and/or the institutional representative:

--Application form;
--Copy of Illinois voter registration card, if required;
--Financial information form;
--Personal statement that clearly describes educational and career plans and goals;
--Personal statement of underrepresented status;
--Three letters of recommendation, speaking to the applicant's qualification for the DFI award and educational and career plans and goals;
--Copies of transcripts required by the admitting institution (only original transcripts will be accepted);
--Proof of formal unconditional acceptance into the graduate program;
--Standardized test scores required by the institution;
--Application certification form signed by the institutional representative.
--Each institution must forward an original and three copies of all application materials to the DFI Administrative Office in Springfield by the deadline prior to the start of the fiscal year in which awards are funded.
--Each application must be complete and contain all required and supporting documents prior to submission to the administrative office. Incomplete applications will not be considered. A checklist will be enclosed to verify that the application is complete.

Renewal Procedures

A student who received an award the previous year submits a renewal application to the institution in which he or she is enrolled.The renewal form is forwarded with the institution's verification and endorsement to the administrator.

Institutions submit the original and one copy of the renewal application to the administrator by the deadline, each year prior to the start of the fiscal year in which awards are funded.

If a student moves without interruption from a master’s program to a doctoral program in the same or similar academic program at the same or another participating institution, the student can submit a renewal form for additional funding. Under no circumstances, however, will awards exceed four years. Evidence of admission must accompany the renewal application.

Fellows must participate in the annual conference and provide requested information to the administrative office.

Selection Meeting

A three-member team comprised of board members and others when applicable will read all new applications. Board members will not be allowed to evaluate applications from their own institution.

Change of Institution and Tuition Remission

Recipients desiring to transfer their award from one institution to another are advised that, while the award is portable, the tuition remission, if any, is at the discretion of the receiving institution. Also, a fellow transferring from one institution to another must remain in the same or similar academic program for which he or she was funded. Fellows changing disciplines must reapply with a new application.

Administration-Award Notification

The administrative office prepares notification letters. The original and one copy of the letter, along with the Grant Agreement form, Awardee Certification and Grant Funds Recovery Act are sent to the institutional representative for signature. Copies of all letters are placed in the appropriate files in the administrative office. Alternate letters and denial letters are mailed directly to students with copies going to the institutional representative.

A computerized list of award recipients is kept up-to-date for fellows accepting or declining awards. After the acceptance deadline, alternates are sent award letters as funds become available.

Enrollment Verification

At the beginning of each fall, winter and spring semester/quarter, lists of award recipients from each institution are prepared and forwarded to the institutional representatives.

Representative verifies that the fellow is enrolled full time.

Once enrollment verifications are returned, the administrative office can proceed with the contractual process.

Representative must note discrepancies on the enrollment verification form. A fellow enrolled less than full time will be subject to termination, and fellowship funds will be returned and awarded to an alternate.

Contractual Process

Contracts are prepared by the administrative office and forwarded to institutional representatives. Representatives obtain the award recipients’ signatures on Grant Agreement, Awardee Certification and Grant Funds Recovery Act. The recipients and the institutional representative retain the copies indicated on the bottom portion of each contract. Remaining copies of the Grant Agreement, Awardee Certification and the original Grant Funds Recovery Act are forwarded to the administrative office by the deadline noted on the award letter.

The representative of each institution that has a DFI recipient will obtain the president’s signature on a Fiscal Agency Agreement form sent by the administrative office. The institution should retain a copy for their records and return the remaining copies to the administrative office.

The administrative office sends the packet of agreements to the IBHE. Upon receipt of the agreements, the IBHE will initiate an invoice voucher process with the Illinois Comptroller’s Office. A voucher will be processed for each institution, which will receive a copy of the voucher made out for the total amount awarded to its award recipients.

Awards must be encumbered by June 30 of each year.

It is recommended that institutions prepare to set up advance accounts from which to pay their fellows from September until receipt of the total award dollars from the comptroller’s office.This will prevent delays in stipend payments to fellows.

Confirmation requests for all fellows will be sent to the institutions in May.