By Tom Emery
CARLINVILLE – A bold new program at Blackburn College will guarantee free tuition to students from Macoupin County high schools, while a separate program will meet financial needs of students from around the nation.
The Macoupin Promise will provide free tuition to Blackburn for qualifying students from all high schools within Macoupin County. A second plan, the Blackburn Promise, will fully meet the financial needs of students from anywhere in the United States.
“It goes to the heart of the College mission,” said Peter Oswald, the Director of Marketing and Publications at Blackburn. “The cost of a college education is a concern to many people. These plans provide the opportunity to receive a high-quality education to prepare students to become leaders in the workplace and in their communities.”
The Macoupin Promise is open to first-time Blackburn students who are graduates of Macoupin County high schools and have a family household income of under $60,000. The student must meet Blackburn’s standard admission requirements and file the Fee Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by December 1, from which most of the tuition will be paid. The remainder will come from money raised in the Macoupin County Scholarship Auction, an annual tradition at Blackburn.
The plan covers only tuition, not room and board, and requires the student to participate in the Student Work Program, which was formerly optional for commuting students.
Oswald notes that Blackburn has always drawn heavily from Macoupin County, and has a large alumni base in the area. “It’s a great way for Blackburn to give back to the local areas,” he said. “It provides the opportunity for Macoupin County students to earn a college degree and remain here, in their local communities.
There’s no reason why the best and brightest students in our area have to leave
“There’s no reason why the best and brightest students in our area have to leave,” continued Oswald. “We want them to stay here, and become future leaders in the communities of Macoupin County.”
The Macoupin Promise was unveiled in a ceremony on the lawn of McKinley House, the Blackburn president’s home, in late September. The program has been enthusiastically received by area high school principals, who laud the importance of Blackburn in the area.
The school is also generating nationwide publicity for the Blackburn Promise, which is open to students from around the U.S. Under that program, students will file the FAFSA, which calculates the Estimated Family Contribution, or EFC. Blackburn will then recognize the EFC as the only cost for the student.
“Because of escalating costs, students at most schools have to come up with more money out of pocket, because their financial aid packages don’t cover the difference between tuition and their EFC,” said Oswald. “The Blackburn Promise provides a simple and equitable way to assign costs for a college education here, and will completely fulfill each student’s financial need.
“If the student’s EFC is zero, then the student won’t have to pay anything for tuition at Blackburn,” continued Oswald. “If the EFC is $8,000, then that’s all the student will have to pay.” The difference in tuition costs will be covered from Blackburn’s endowment and other funding sources.
Less than six percent of schools nationwide offer a similar plan and only two, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, are in Illinois. Others on the list include several Ivy League schools and some of the nation’s finest liberal-arts schools, such as Amherst, Bryn Mawr, and Williams.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for young people to obtain a top-quality education at a low cost,” remarked Oswald. “The mission of the College throughout its 180 years of history has been to provide affordable access to higher education, and these programs address that goal.
“We have a rigorous academic program at Blackburn, and the Work Program gives students the tools they need to advance in their careers,” concluded Oswald. “Now, Blackburn is providing more opportunities for a great education to students both from Macoupin County and around the nation.”
Tom Emery is a freelance writer and historical researcher from Carlinville, Ill. He may be reached at 217-710-8392 or [email protected]