Marian University in Indianapolis says it will provide an additional $5 million as part of full-tuition scholarships to 50 high school seniors in the state’s 21st Century Scholars program. The university says the effort will support families impacted by the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Marian has begun a fundraising campaign to fulfill its commitment.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Marian President Dan Elsener said the effort speaks to the university’s vision of making high-quality education available to anyone who wants it.
“If you look at the disproportional negative effect the virus has had on middle and lower-income families, I started talking to some of my donors about how would we respond because the most vulnerable folks in the economy with the least amount of savings and the first often to be laid off would be in the working (class),” said Elsener. “These downturns hit those folks the hardest.”
The 21st Century Scholars program, which was created in 1990 by then-Governor Evan Bayh, provides up to four years of undergraduate tuition to income-eligible students, according to the program’s website. Eligible students enroll in the program in seventh or eighth grade and must maintain certain academic standards through high school to keep their eligibility.
The university says the funding from Marian, along with Pell Grants and 21st Century Scholar funding, will ensure four-year full-tuition scholarships for students who maintain their academic standing.
The funding for the effort would come through the university’s Helping Hand fund, which Elsener says has been used to help students in a difficult situation. He says Marian has raised more than $2 million for the fund over the last six or seven years.
“These are the kind of things that change your world and community and that’s the business we’re in. We see a problem, we address it, we invite people to do it with us,” said Elsener.
The university says students who quickly apply for the scholarships and have earned a high grade point average in high school will be given first preference until all 50 scholarships are awarded.
“The 21st Century Scholars Program is designed to ensure that every student can afford the opportunity provided by a college education,” Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers said in a news release. “These students have worked hard since middle school and are prepared for college and career success. We partner with institutions throughout the state, and it’s encouraging that Marian University is stepping up to provide a full-tuition scholarship, continuing the university’s longstanding commitment to low-income Hoosier students.”
Students interested in applying for the scholarships are encouraged to contact the university’s admissions office.
Elsener says the university was well prepared in its response to the pandemic. He says a plan was put into place for a “natural disaster” situation about two years ago that included making all courses dual designed for both in-class and online instruction.
Elsener says about 80% of the university’s courses were set for e-learning when the pandemic hit. He says preparation was key.
“If we had hit this flat-footed, our students would’ve fallen way back. They are preparing to do some of life’s most important work and we don’t want our students falling back.”
Elsener says the university is currently planning to fully reopen in the fall, with contingency plans in case doing so is not possible when the time comes.
“There will be some differences. There will be a lot more sanitation stations and we’ll probably look at classroom changes. We have a large crisis management group that gives us input from all over and then I have a seven-person implementation team and we’re going to work with all the scenarios.”
Elsener said the effort speaks to the university’s vision of making high quality education available to anyone that wants it.