March 23, 2009

SIUC introduces Southern Stars Tuition Rate

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE -- Southern Illinois high school students who come from lower-income households and attend academically strong schools will have another financial incentive to attend Southern Illinois University Carbondale this fall.

The University soon will kick off its Southern Stars Tuition Rate, which will provide qualifying students with a 20 percent tuition rate reduction. The program is set to begin with new, first-time freshmen from the state’s southernmost 34 counties this fall and applies during all four years of undergraduate study.

The program assists strong students graduating from qualified high schools who need financial assistance to attend SIUC. Such students will likely succeed at the University, which will in turn promote retention and graduation rates, officials said.

The new program will help good students who might not otherwise be able to afford college attend the top-notch university in their own backyard, said Chancellor Samuel Goldman.

“We know there are high school students who want to attend SIUC, the comprehensive university within their own region, but who lack the financial resources to do so,” Goldman said. “We want to keep our homegrown talent right here and this is another way we can help our young people realize their dreams.”

Victoria Valle, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management, said the students the program targets deserve a chance to go to college.

“These are kids who have worked hard, who have taken the rigorous courses in high school and who might not have the means to think about going to the senior institution in our area, and that’s us,” she said. “These are students who might be thinking about community college, or who might be lured out of state. Well, we want them here where they can get a strong comprehensive experience.”

Along with the geographic requirements, students must meet several standards related to financial need and academic preparedness and achievement to qualify for the program. First, students must qualify for the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) as defined by the federal government. Under those requirements the student must:

•apply for financial aid by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and be determined eligible for a federal Pell Grant

• be a U.S. citizen, or other eligible non-citizen

•be enrolled in a two- or four-year degree program

• be enrolled at least half-time

• have graduated from high school after Jan. 1, 2006

•not have been enrolled in an ACG-eligible program while at or below age of compulsory school attendance

Students also must graduate from Recognized Rigorous Secondary School Programs of Study, which set curriculum standards for high schools and students. Such standards include a set of courses similar to the State Scholars Initiative, which include:

• four years of English

• three years of math, including algebra I and a higher level course such as algebra II or geometry, among others

•three years of science, including at least two courses from among biology, chemistry or physics

•three years of social studies

•one year of foreign language

Some high school students might have trouble getting the foreign language credit they need at their high schools, Valle said. Those students should explore opportunities at area community colleges. The University also will work with those institutions and explore other means to give students a chance to earn those credits, she said.

Students also must take Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses and tests. This program requires a minimum of two AP or IB courses in high school and minimum passing scores of 3 or higher on AP exams and 4 or higher on IB exams.

Students from the following Southern Illinois counties are eligible for the program: Alexander, Bond, Clay, Clinton, Crawford, Edwards, Effingham, Fayette, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Johnson, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Massac, Monroe, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Richland, Randolph, Saline, St. Clair, Union, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, White, and Williamson.

Valle said she hopes to gain 100 or more students through the program, based on the fact that more than 90 students currently enrolled at the University would be eligible for the program if they started as freshmen this fall.

The Academic Competitiveness Grant, which provides $750 in addition to Pell Grant funds, is funded through 2011. Considering the ACG, Pell Grant and the new Southern Stars Tuition Rate program, getting an education at SIUC will come within reach of more deserving students, she said.

“All in all, this is kind of a grow-your-own initiative,” Valle said. “We want students to think about coming to us for their education. But more than that, we also want them to think about going to college.”