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University of Illinois at Chicago Will Give Free Tuition to State's Top Students

A new scholarship program made possible by state funding will provide free tuition to University of Illinois at Chicago for high-achieving local students.

By Dawn Rhodes

A new scholarship program made possible by state funding will provide free tuition to University of Illinois at Chicago for high-achieving local students.

UIC's Chancellor's Fellows program, in place for fall 2019 incoming students, is part of a statewide effort to reduce the number of Illinois students leaving the state for college.

To be eligible for the UIC program, first-time Illinois college students must have at least a 3.8 GPA and at least a 1360 on the SAT or a 30 on the ACT exams. Their family incomes cannot be more than six times the federal poverty rate.

The poverty threshold for a family of two parents and two minor children, for example, as established by the U.S. Census Bureau, is $24,858 as of 2017.

High school valedictorians also will be eligible, irrespective of their grades or standardized test scores, officials said.

The scholarship covers tuition and fees. Posted base tuition for in-state undergraduates at UIC runs $10,584 as of this fall. Required fees add as much as $2,100, according to current rates. Tuition for programs such as engineering are more expensive, but officials say those students also will be eligible for the scholarship.

The scholarship will not cover room and board, which adds $10,000 to $13,000 a year depending on the dorm and meal plan, according to UIC's housing website.

Students must apply by UIC's early action deadline of Nov. 1 to be considered.

Funding for the scholarships comes in part from the state's new AIM HIGH grant program, signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner in August.

AIM HIGH allots $25 million from the state to the 12 state public universities to create a pool of funding for merit scholarships, meaning scholarships not based on a family's financial need. Schools receiving the money must match state funds with institutional dollars.

UIC received $3.8 million from the state for the scholarships, bringing the overall pool for the Chancellor's Fellows program to $7.6 million.

The grants were part of several pieces of legislation Rauner endorsed to entice local students to stay home for college. Nationally, only New Jersey exports more of its residents to out-of-state colleges than Illinois.

Earlier this year, the Tribune reported how schools battling over top students were increasingly using generous merit scholarships to lure Illinoisans. For example, hundreds of Illinoisans have flocked to University of Alabama in recent years and received full- or nearly full-tuition scholarships to do so.

UIC officials said that despite its substantial growth in recent years, particularly among freshman students, the Near West Side campus still loses out on talented students in the financial arms race.

"We want these accomplished students at UIC because of the exceptional dedication and discipline they have shown during their high school years," Chancellor Michael Amiridis said in a statement.

Other state schools also have rolled out similar programs.

For students who meet the AIM HIGH requirements, Eastern Illinois University in Charleston is implementing programs to pay tuition and fees left over after financial aid is applied, to match posted tuition for any regionally accredited out-of-state school in the Midwest, and to provide bonus scholarship funding for top students.

A new program at Western Illinois in Macomb pledges grants that qualified students can use to cover tuition and fees, as well as books and room and board. Students must have a minimum 2.75 high school GPA and a 1060 SAT or 21 ACT score to be eligible.

(c)2018 the Chicago Tribune

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