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Bahls meeting at White House on affordability

January  16, 2014

Augustana College President Steve Bahls is at the White House today for a meeting on higher education. He and some 80 other college presidents from across the nation were convened to discuss a plan for increasing college access and success for low-income and disadvantaged students. (White House live stream)

During the meeting, President Bahls plans to share an innovative way Augustana is responding to President Obama’s request of colleges to improve affordability. The Close the Gap Award program will close the funding gap that deters high-ability/high-financial need students by partnering with donors.

The Close the Gap Award program for incoming students will start with the 2014-2015 academic year. “This program will improve access to high-quality, private, higher education for new students with financial need that exceeds 80 percent of the cost to attend,” said President Bahls.

“This will help us attract students who may have not chosen Augustana, because 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 10 percent or more 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 our donors. 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 100 high-need, high-achieving students to become part of our campus community.”

Jackson added, “It appears we are on the right path. Since we started this program in December, 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.”

Affordability is a primary focus of Augustana’s new strategic plan, Augustana 2020, set to roll out this spring.

President Bahls said has a personal reason for affordability and ensuring today’s students aren’t under-matched, as his mother was decades ago. “She was valedictorian of her high school class in Fort Dodge, Iowa, but because her father had lost his job as a lineman for the telephone company and then became ill, she could not afford to go to college," he said. "She was unable to attend a four-year college. That is why I am so passionate about creating these opportunities and applaud our lead donor’s tremendous vision.”

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