AIM HIGH Grant funding will make Eastern accessible to bigger pool of future students

Analicia Haynes, Editor-in-Chief

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The EIU Promise Program that was revealed Thursday will reduce or offset the full cost of tuition and mandatory fees costs, including textbook rental fees, for qualified Illinois students who enroll as a way to curb out-migration.

Room and board, course-specific fees such as laboratory fees, study abroad fees, new student program fee and indirect expenses like supplies and travel are not covered.

The program was created as a result of the AIM HIGH Grant program that was passed in August.

According to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, the AIM HIGH Grant will provide $25 million in merit-based aid that will be matched by Illinois public universities.

Josh Norman, the associate vice president of enrollment management, said this means Eastern will receive just shy of $1 million from the grant.

Starting with its Fall 2019 incoming class, Eastern will use three funding mechanisms supported by the grant funding.

They are:

• EIU Promise

Eastern will offset the remaining balance of a student’s tuition and fee costs for resident families demonstrating a family income of $61,000 or less.

• EIU Cost Match

Eastern will match the out-of-pocket cost of attendance of any regionally accredited public university in Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. To qualify, Illinois students can submit their financial aid award letters from qualifying institutions in those states.   

• EIU Merit Scholarship Bonus

An additional $500 will be added to any of the three merit scholarships provided by Eastern.

The distinguished merit scholarship currently offers $4,000 annually, the high achieving merit scholarship offers $3,000 annually and the academic merit scholarship offers $2,000. By combining merit scholarship benefits with state-funded AIM HIGH scholarships, qualified Eastern students are eligible to earn up to $18,000 in scholarship funding over four years or eight semesters.

Norman said Eastern and the other state universities were given until Sept. 17 to have a plan on how to spend the grant funding.

“How do we interpret this legislation and how do we make rules that best benefit the students in the state of Illinois and the 12 universities and get at the goals that were set as the lens for this legislation,” Norman said in reference to the task Eastern and the other universities had to do for the ISAC.

After doing the calculations and basing those calculations on pre-budget impasse numbers, Norman said they were able to develop this mechanism, with the help of Eastern provost Jay Gatrell.

Norman said these new mechanisms are net neutral and should not cause any fiscal issues for Eastern; will help curb out-migration, which is when students leave Illinois to attend college somewhere else; and will encourage a diverse group of students to attend Eastern who otherwise would not have. 

“The EIU promise program is incredible (because it makes) this incredible value (Eastern) accessible to a broader population,” Norman said. “I love that because that’s going to bring more diversity to this campus, that’s going to bring more students who had those financial risks indicators (to campus).”

Norman said the new financial program is an initiative to also recruit students with an academic profile of an ACT score of 20 and a minimum 3.0 unweighted GPA because historically those students “exceed national standards for retention and graduation.”

Eastern Provost Jay Gatrell said the AIM HIGH grant allows Eastern to do more for students.

Though the new grant funding can only be applied to new freshmen that will be enrolled in Fall 2019, Norman said he would love to see this applied to continuing students. However, he said the legislation is written in a way that requires students to be completing high school and entering college.

Other program qualifications include Illinois residency for the student, Illinois residency for at least one parent identified on the student’s FAFSA and admittance to Eastern as a new, full-time freshman.

Full AIM HIGH scholarship details are available at www.eiu.edu/aimhigh/.

Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].