EUREKA — Tuition guarantees and grants to assist with “experiential learning” are part of “The Uniquely Eureka Advantage,” an initiative unveiled Thursday at Eureka College.
Under the program for students entering in fall 2017:
• Students who follow guidelines and requirements but don’t graduate in four years will get free tuition their fifth year.
• Tuition for incoming freshmen will be frozen for their four years at Eureka.
• A $2,000 experiential learning grant will be available to all new students after they complete 45 credit hours at Eureka.
• Study abroad opportunities will be available for students under the guidance of faculty and staff.
• Emphasis will be placed on student leadership and participation in activities.
Eureka President Jamel Santa Cruze Wright said other schools offer similar opportunities, but “none that we know of combine all of the advantages into one package.”
College officials are hopeful the new program will not only provide students with better preparation for their lives after graduation but also boost enrollment at the school.
Fall enrollment was 672. Wright said she thinks enrollment can grow to between 800 and 1,000.
Tuition — which makes up about 86 percent of the school’s operating funds — will provide the faculty and staff resources needed for the program, she said. Money from the school’s endowment will be used to provide the $2,000 experiential learning grants.
Those grants can be used to help with internships, mentorships, research, conference presentations or study abroad opportunities.
Biology professor Paul Small, chairman of the science and mathematics department, thinks the program is a good idea, particularly the commitment to experiential learning.
“It will give opportunities for more students to do research and presentations and explore what their field has to offer,” said Small, who has taught at Eureka for 30 years. “We are the right size that we can help mentor students, especially the experiential learning part.”
He described the initiative as providing a “value-added education” that gives students “the opportunity to continue to excel.”
Wright said the college was confident about guaranteeing a fifth year of free tuition for those who don’t graduate in four years because it has already had success in that area.
“Eighty-eight percent of our students graduate in four years,” she said. “We know what the formula is.”
To qualify, students will have to follow guidelines and requirements such as how many credit hours to take each semester. Wright said it’s a very detailed plan that specifies when students can change majors, if they desire.
Planning for the program has been in the works for about eight or nine months, according to Wright.
As for enrollment growth, Wright said, “We’re going to be thoughtful and intentional,” ensuring that Eureka can “still offer the same type of quality education” it does now.
The four-year tuition guarantee is similar to what public universities do under Illinois’ truth-in-tuition law.
To remain eligible, students need to be in good academic standing and continuously enrolled for four academic years or eight semesters.
“We want our families to know the cost and be able to plan,” she said.
Wright said she envisions offering more study-abroad opportunities, possibly partnering with other colleges. The experiential learning grant could help make that more accessible to student who might not have adequate financial resources, she said.
“We really want the world to be our students classroom,” said Wright.
“The Uniquely Eureka Advantage is designed to advance the college’s mission and represents the next level in providing learning, service and leadership,” she said. “We are confident that this initiative will keep our pricing competitive while enhancing our superior outcomes.”