A monthly letter from President Martin C. Jischke
America's land-grant universities were born in the 19th century out of the vision of men like Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, as well as Justin Morrill, whose name will forever be linked to a law that transformed our nation.
The Morrill Act was based on the then-revolutionary idea that the development of a person's abilities was more important than the circumstances into which he or she was born. It recognized education as the means of developing a tremendous amount of human potential, creating not only individual success, but also great social and economic benefits.
As a new academic year begins at Purdue, I am privileged to watch the surge of energy that comes to our campuses every fall. But even more exciting is the realization that, of all the thousands of students thronging to classes and partaking in activities, the vast majority will fulfill their dreams and find both professional and personal success. This is the amazing thing about higher education: If we give highly motivated people access to it and the kind of support a great university can provide, it almost never fails.
This is one of the reasons I am very excited about a very special scholarship program we have launched this year. The Purdue Opportunity Awards are designed to extend the promise of a Purdue education to people from throughout Indiana who without the program might face insurmountable obstacles to earning a college degree. The Opportunity Awards are designed to pay for tuition, room and board for a high-need incoming freshman from each of the state's 92 counties.
The first group of freshmen to benefit from this program started classes when the fall semester began on August 23. Later that week, we held a dinner to welcome these 90 students and their parents to the Purdue family.
These remarkable young people come to the university only after overcoming rigorous challenges. All of them have severe financial need, but many of them have also faced personal tragedy ranging from the death of family members to illness, abandonment and abuse. Yet each of them has completed high school and maintained an academic record strong enough for admission to Purdue.
The Purdue Opportunity Awards scholarship combines federal, state and institutional funding with gifts made by Purdue donors to provide a financial aid package equal to the student's tuition, room and board for their freshman year. In the second year, recipients will receive up to an additional $2,500 to help fill the gap after federal, state and institutional aid has been awarded. The students also will receive financial counseling to help them secure other sources of financial support to continue their education.
In order to identify qualified students, Purdue staff work with a variety of educational professionals and community resources in every county, including guidance counselors, teachers, Purdue Extension offices, and YMCA and YWCA facilities. If you know of students who might qualify, you can contact Sarah Helm, Opportunity Awards Coordinator, at Purdue University, Schleman Hall, 475 Stadium Mall Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2050, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The university is determined to provide each of these students the financial and other support needed to allow them to earn a degree. Despite the support offered by this wonderful program, these young people are not likely to find the path to a college degree easy. The challenges that have made them eligible for the scholarship will still be there. However, they have demonstrated determination, ability and spirit that prove they can succeed.
The Purdue Opportunity Awards are the helping hand they need to get them past the final obstacles to a degree and a new and better life. I'm very optimistic that these students will make the most of this opportunity. When they receive their Purdue diplomas, they will be fulfilling the greatest promise of the land-grant ideal.
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