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IWU Offers Large Scholarships For McLean County High School Grads

Eric Jensen
Charlie Schlenker
Illinois Wesleyan University President Eric Jensen announced the McLean County Scholarship initiative Wednesday evening at the Shirk Center.

Illinois Wesleyan University is hoping to boost the number of students it enrolls from McLean County by significantly raising financial awards for those students.

Starting now, IWU will knock $27,000 per year off its annual sticker price of about $47,000 for incoming students who live in McLean County. University President Eric Jensen said that’s a minimum and could go higher based on need, academic achievement, or a variety of other factors. The minimum local scholarship is about $3,500 more than the average discount for IWU students, according to Jensen. The local support package will bring total tuition down to about $20,000 or less. Jensen said that’s only about $4,000 a year more than Illinois State University tuition, making IWU very affordable.

Jensen said this will not only help Illinois Wesleyan, it will benefit the community by reducing brain drain.

“If somebody from McLean County goes somewhere else, the likelihood they remain here later in life is smaller than if they were here graduating from college and forming the kind of bonds you form in college and so forth. So, in the long run, I have to think it will make a difference,” said Jensen.

Willie Brown, president of Illinois Wesleyan Associates, said 46 percent of Illinois high school graduates go out of state for college.

“That has to change,” said Brown.

Jensen said another benefit to the community is local knowledge. McLean County students, he said, are well positioned to do what all students are encouraged to do—get involved in the community and develop projects that help government agencies, organizations, or not-for-profit agencies.

“What we really want to do is have the mix of students that make this place the place that it is, and in Illinois we are working in a challenging environment. So the question for us is how do we most appeal to the kind of students who help leaven the mix here, who make this place special,” said Jensen.

Jensen said he’s not aware whether other small, high quality liberal arts institutions are moving to concentrate on local high school products. He said the initiative makes sense for IWU.

Many colleges and universities across the country, including IWU, have faced significant struggles to maintain enrollment in the face of shrinking numbers of high school graduates.

Jensen said the university expects to gain an additional 10 students per year at first, bringing local enrollment from 7 percent of the total up to 9 or 10 percent. IWU has about 1,600 students this year, lower than desired.

Jensen says IWU will raise $2 million over four years to pay for the program.

You can also listen to GLT's full interview:

GLT's full interview with Eric Jensen.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.