EUREKA, Ill. (WMBD) — A local college is expanding its tuition-free scholarship to eligible Illinois high school graduates.
Through the Uniquely Eureka Promise Program, Illinois high school graduates with financial need will be able to earn a bachelor’s degree from Eureka College tuition-free.
The program originally started out in 2018 as a scholarship for Illinois transfer students. Now, all Illinois high school graduates with financial needs are eligible to apply.
“We couldn’t be more ecstatic to be able to offer such an opportunity, especially at this time when we know families continue to struggle financially due to the impact of COVID and even before that,” said Dr. Jamel Wright, president of Eureka College.
Mother-of-four Kerri Berry, 27, was part of the initial cohort of students. The entire class graduated in May, all tuition-free.
“I really was happy with not having to worry about tuition. I paid for the books. I thought the coursework was great, my teachers were great,” she said.
Berry now works as a home visitor with Peoria County Bright Futures Program, a Illinois State Board of Education-funded program aimed at preparing young children for future school success in a community-supported setting. She said her dual psychology and sociology degree prepared her well for the role.
“It’s a great experience and I think that the coursework really helped me to kind of understand where a lot of families were coming from,” she said.
Dr. Wright said Eureka’s core 10 Essentials curriculum, its version of general education, prepares students for any field.
“That’s really where we know that students will gain those transferable skills, no matter how many times they reinvent themselves after they graduate,” she said.
Dr. Wright said the program’s growth will give more Illinois students to pursue their college goals despite trying times.
“We know that students were really struggling to figure out the finances. It’s not that they didn’t want to send their sons and daughters, or they themselves didn’t want to pursue a bachelor’s degree, they just couldn’t figure out a way to make the money work, and now we’re able to help them do that,” she said.
She said applications for the spring semester are still open. They are due on Jan. 3, 2022.
Applicants must have a GPA higher than 2.8, be a U.S. Citizen, and be eligible to receive the state of Illinois MAP grant and federal Pell Grant.
Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Peoria) released a statement applauding Eureka for expanding the program to “give kids across the state the opportunity to thrive at college.”