CARBONDALE — Five returning Southern Illinois University Carbondale students will receive in-kind gifts totaling nearly $1,500 prior to the fall semester thanks to a continuing scholarship targeting retention from the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce.
“It was designed as way to help students who maybe could not afford to come back, so it was very much a retention effort,” said Director Les O’Dell, the chamber’s executive director.
This is the sixth year for the Saluki Stay Scholarship Program, O’Dell said. The chamber is currently seeking applicants.
This past year, students received in-kind gifts in the form of free haircuts, at least one free meal a week at a member restaurant, oil changes, $250 toward books from 710 Bookstore, among other things. The scholarships are funded by in-kind gifts and cash donations from the chamber’s members.
Since the program began in 2012, about 25 students have received the award, and all have graduated or are on target to graduate, O’Dell said. It is overseen by the chamber’s Saluki Pride Committee, which has a mission of strengthening the relationship between SIU and the Carbondale business community.
SIU is a top economic driver of the Carbondale and greater Southern Illinois region. While much focus is placed on new student recruitment, retention of returning students has been a renewed focus of university, city and business leaders in more recent years.
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Applicants for the scholarship are judged blind by Saluki Pride subcommittee members based on a combination of financial need, potential for success and students’ involvement in positive SIU and community activities.
“We like to call it the most unique scholarship on campus because it’s so much fun,” he said. “It’s been a really great scholarship program and a simple way for our members to support students.”
To be eligible for the award, students must be enrolled full time for the fall semester 2017, be juniors or seniors with at least a 2.8 grade point average, have attended SIU for at least four semesters and show demonstrated financial need.