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White House postpones higher ed meetings

December  09, 2013

The White House has postoned meetings on higher education scheduled this week because President Obama will be in South Africa at the memorial of Nelson Mandela. 

Augustana President Steve Bahls had been invited by Gene Sperling, President Obama's chief economic advisor, to attend the meetings Dec. 10-11. President Bahls and college presidents from across the nation were to discuss a plan of action for increasing college access and success for low-income and disadvantaged students.

Sperling said the meetings would be rescheduled in January.

During the meetings, President Bahls plans to share an innovative way Augustana will close the funding gap that deters high-ability/high-financial need students by partnering with donors to turn their dream of an Augustana education into an affordable reality.

Starting with the 2014-2015 academic year, Augustana will offer the Close the Gap Award program.

"This program will improve access to high quality, private, higher education for students with financial need that exceeds 80 percent of the cost to attend," explained President Bahls.

"We will cut these students' unmet financial need by $2,500 to $7,500 annually," he said. "Our goal is to offer a sufficient number of awards to positively impact approximately 10 percent of the class entering in fall of 2014."

With these targeted awards the college will increase the likelihood that the highest-achieving students (ACT score of 28 or above and in top 10 percent of high school class) in Augustana's admitted pool will enroll.

To ensure the Close the Gap Award program's success, college leaders are reaching out to key donors to provide funding. The Augustana Office of Advancement is connecting with alumni and friends and asking them to increase their annual giving toward immediate "close the gap" awards.

"We also are seeking leadership gifts from members of the Board of Trustees to fund these scholarships," President Bahls said. "To provide resources for the students' full experience, we are asking our donors for four-year commitments."

Augustana aims to raise $1 million over four years to meet the financial need for deserving students.

Lynn Jackson, vice president of advancement, said, "We're hoping to provide scholarships that will allow as many as 70 high-need, high-achieving students to become part of our campus community."

"It appears we are on the right path," she said. "Since we started this program two weeks ago, we have secured a lead gift of $800,000 to impact approximately 40 students for four years. In addition, we have secured gifts to ‘close the gap' for an additional 10 students."

Keri Rursch
Director of Public Relations
(309) 794-7721
kerirursch@augustana.edu