IWU among top economically diverse colleges

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Rebekah Smith

 

Higher education is expensive, but is also important for not only the individual but the American economy as well.  The income gap between college grads and high school grads has reached record levels.

According to statistics of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, Americans with a degree from a four-year university earned 98 percent more an hour on average than those without a degree.  Despite good high school GPAs and high SAT scores, many students from low-income families find that college is still out of reach.  Upward mobility is far less common in America than it is in other countries.

Recent statistics show that lower-income students make up large portions of the student body at Wesleyan schools.  In terms of endowments per student, Illinois Wesleyan University is on par with many highly ranked schools including Cornell, DePauw, Boston College and Rochester.

“For students to be able to successful in the future, we need IWU to reflect the glowingly diverse world that we are all going to enter in the coming years,” said junior Austin Aldag. “This being on the spectrum of many areas, one of which is greatly overlooked in socio-economic levels and class.”

Throughout the last decade, there has been quite a push for more generous financial-aid policies because rising tuition costs are a major barrier for college hopefuls from low-income families.  Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley held various hearings in 2007 to determine whether or not colleges were using endowments to help student tuition costs and scholarships.  President Obama worked with Congress to expand the Pell-grant program, which provides need-based scholarships and grants to qualified low-income undergraduate students.

A decade ago, there was a drop in economic diversity in some of the nation’s top educational institutions.  In 2006, Vassar College President Catharine Bond Hill became an advocate for the promotion of need-based support for students to attend college.

Universities, including IWU, have been working to recruit top academic students from all economic backgrounds.  They have also been increasing budgets to provide more financial-aid opportunities.

“Through the use of these scholarships and other initiatives, we are able to allow all amazingly motivated students in our doors to learn not only from professors in classes, but more importantly from each other,” said Aldag.

For the 2013-2014 academic school year, IWU issued $34 million for University scholarships and grants.  Sixty-three percent of IWU students receive need-based financial assistance, and 33 percent receive merit scholarships.  Most IWU students receive scholarships, and many wouldn’t be able to afford IWU without these scholarships.

To ensure that Illinois Wesleyan University is able to fund and provide scholarships for students, IWU hosts the “All in for Wesleyan” challenge to fundraise.  This past spring, current and alumni Titans raised more than $700,000 in just one day for scholarships.

“As a first-generation college student these scholarships played a vital role when choosing which university to attend,” said senior Nicole Bacigalupo. “Both my sister and I are lucky to attend a school that awarded scholastic achievement so our parents could afford the tuition of a prestigious university”