‘Extreme demand’ for private school scholarships causes application website to crash

On the first day applications were accepted for new private school scholarships in Illinois, the online system shut down due to “extreme demand.”

Families across the state who met certain income requirements could start submitting their applications online at noon Wednesday.

Empower Illinois, one of the organizations overseeing the program, told its newsletter subscribers that there were more than 24,000 visitors within the first hour. In another update, it said there were actually that many interested families “within the first few minutes.”

It was important to apply early because the applications are date and time stamped so that the money can be given out on a first come, first served basis. Empower Illinois stated that the issue affected everyone Wednesday and that no applications were processed.

“What happened today is extremely disappointing,” the organization stated on its website. “We recognize the significant issues this is posing for families and students and are continuing to work to resolve this as quickly as possible. ... We appreciate your patience and we sincerely apologize for the delay.”

As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, Empower Illinois stated that it did not have an estimate for when applications could be accepted online again.

Some private schools like Father McGivney Catholic High School also posted on social media about the issue.

“Please know we are doing our best to keep in contact with representatives from the Diocese of Springfield and with Empower Illinois to be sure they are aware of the issue,” the school stated.

The new scholarship program is funded by private donations. Donors expect to receive tax credits, an incentive from the state to encourage participation.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes