(110 ILCS 947/65.70)
    Sec. 65.70. Optometric Education Scholarship Program.
    (a) The General Assembly finds and declares that the provision of graduate education leading to a doctoral degree in optometry for persons of this State who desire such an education is important to the health and welfare of this State and Nation and, consequently, is an important public purpose. Many qualified potential optometrists are deterred by financial considerations from pursuing their optometric education with consequent irreparable loss to the State and Nation of talents vital to health and welfare. A program of scholarships, repayment of which may be excused if the individual practices professional optometry in this State, will enable such individuals to attend qualified public or private institutions of their choice in the State.
    (b) Beginning with the 2003-2004 academic year, the Commission shall, each year, consider applications for scholarship assistance under this Section. An applicant is eligible for a scholarship under this Section if the Commission finds that the applicant is:
        (1) a United States citizen or eligible noncitizen;
        (2) a resident of Illinois; and
        (3) enrolled on a full-time basis in a public or
private college of optometry located in this State that awards a doctorate degree in optometry and is approved by the Department of Professional Regulation.
    (c) Each year the Commission shall award 10 scholarships under this Section among applicants qualified pursuant to subsection (b). Two of these scholarships each shall be awarded to eligible applicants enrolled in their first year, second year, third year, and fourth year. The remaining 2 scholarships shall be awarded to any level of student. The Commission shall receive funding for the scholarships through appropriations from the Optometric Licensing and Disciplinary Board Fund. If in any year the number of qualified applicants exceeds the number of scholarships to be awarded, the Commission shall give priority in awarding scholarships to students demonstrating exceptional merit and who are in financial need. A scholarship shall be in the amount of $5,000 each year applicable to tuition and fees.
    (d) The total amount of scholarship assistance awarded by the Commission under this Section to an individual in any given fiscal year, when added to other financial assistance awarded to that individual for that year, shall not exceed the cost of attendance at the institution at which the student is enrolled.
    (e) A recipient may receive up to 8 semesters or 12 quarters of scholarship assistance under this Section.
    (f) Subject to a separate appropriation made for such purposes, payment of any scholarship awarded under this Section shall be determined by the Commission. All scholarship funds distributed in accordance with this Section shall be paid to the institution on behalf of the recipients. Scholarship funds are applicable toward 2 semesters or 3 quarters of enrollment within an academic year.
    (g) The Commission shall administer the Optometric Education Scholarship Program established by this Section and shall make all necessary and proper rules not inconsistent with this Section for its effective implementation.
    (h) Prior to receiving scholarship assistance for any academic year, each recipient of a scholarship awarded under this Section shall be required by the Commission to sign an agreement under which the recipient pledges that, within the one-year period following the termination of the academic program for which the recipient was awarded a scholarship, the recipient shall practice in this State as a licensed optometrist under the Illinois Optometric Practice Act of 1987 for a period of not less than one year for each year of scholarship assistance awarded under this Section. Each recipient shall, upon request of the Commission, provide the Commission with evidence that he or she is fulfilling or has fulfilled the terms of the practice agreement provided for in this subsection.
    (i) If a recipient of a scholarship awarded under this Section fails to fulfill the practice obligation set forth in subsection (h) of this Section, the Commission shall require the recipient to repay the amount of the scholarships received, prorated according to the fraction of the obligation not completed, plus interest at a rate of 5% and, if applicable, reasonable collection fees. The Commission is authorized to establish rules relating to its collection activities for repayment of scholarships under this Section.
    (j) A recipient of a scholarship awarded by the Commission under this Section shall not be in violation of the agreement entered into pursuant to subsection (h) if the recipient (i) is serving as a member of the armed services of the United States; (ii) is enrolled in a residency program following graduation at an approved institution; (iii) is a person with a temporary total disability, as established by sworn affidavit of a qualified physician; or (iii) cannot fulfill the employment obligation due to his or her death, disability, or incompetency, as established by sworn affidavit of a qualified physician. No claim for repayment may be filed against the estate of such a decedent or incompetent. Any extension of the period during which the employment requirement must be fulfilled shall be subject to limitations of duration as established by the Commission.
(Source: P.A. 99-143, eff. 7-27-15.)