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Can I Receive Unemployment in Illinois While in School?

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Although the name might suggest otherwise, unemployment benefits are not available to everyone who is currently unemployed. Rather, these benefits are available only a select number of people who have lost their jobs relatively recently, don't currently have jobs, and are trying to re-enter the workforce. A student cannot generally receive unemployment benefits in Illinois, but a worker seeking re-training may be able to retain his unemployment benefits.

Eligibility for Benefits

The most important criteria for receiving benefits is having been fired recently. If a person wasn't fired from a full-time or part-time job recently, he can't receive benefits. In addition, if a person is approved for benefits, then to keep them, he is required to search for a job continuously. Then, if a suitable job is offered him, he must be willing and able to take it.

Full-Time Students

Illinois specifically states in its "Unemployment Insurance Handbook" that anyone who considers their primary occupation to be that of a full-time student, including students who are currently on vacation, are not eligible to receive benefits. However, many unemployed workers will likely not consider themselves to be students, but consider school to be simply a means of helping them reenter the workforce by upgrading their credentials.


Illinois does allow a person to take an approved training course while unemployed and maintain his benefits. To make sure that his course is approved, the person should contact the Illinois Department of Workforce Development before enrolling, to make sure that his receipt of benefits is not jeopardized. In addition, a person taking classes outside the regular workday, such as on evenings and weekends, will likely not lose benefits.


The main reason that a person who is already eligible for benefits might lose them after enrolling in school would be that enrollment would, in the eyes of the state, prevent them from fulfilling the requirements demanded of recipients. For example, the person would not be able to look for a job or take one that an employer offered him because he was too busy in classes. Prior approval from the Illinois Department of Workforce Development, should allay that concern.


Michael Wolfe has been writing and editing since 2005, with a background including both business and creative writing. He has worked as a reporter for a community newspaper in New York City and a federal policy newsletter in Washington, D.C. Wolfe holds a B.A. in art history and is a resident of Brooklyn, N.Y.

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