By Eric Gorski, AP Education Writer
Hoping to portray themselves as more affordable and all-around better neighbors, private colleges from Appalachia to Boston are sweetening financial aid packages for students from their own backyards.
The latest and most prestigious example is Northwestern University. By targeting local students in financial need, Northwestern is seeking to boost minority enrollment, strengthen local ties and stay competitive in the college admissions race at a time when many private schools are increasing aid based on student merit instead of financial circumstances.
"You may be thinking globally about your education curriculum," David Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, said of such efforts. "But you're increasingly acting locally with respect to students."
Northwestern's "Good Neighbor, Great University" scholarships will be awarded starting in fall 2011 to about 100 incoming freshman who graduated from high schools in Evanston, Ill., home to Northwestern's main campus, and Chicago, site of its medical school. About 2,000 first-year students enroll at Northwestern annually.
Students whose families show financial need — there is no income cut-off — will be eligible for scholarships replacing loans and payments from work-study. The majority of students who qualify will receive enough aid to fully cover the cost of Northwestern's $40,223 annual tuition and fees, said Michael Mills, associate provost for university enrollment.
The program was recommended by a university task force on diversity and inclusion, which was formed following racial tensions on campus, including a controversy last fall over two students who dressed up in blackface for Halloween.
After its black student enrollment peaked at nearly 10% during the Carter administration, Northwestern experienced a slow and steady decline, Mills said.
This year's incoming freshman class is about 7.2% black, up from 4.5% three years ago, which Mills attributed in part to better outreach to Chicago Public Schools and waiving the $65 application fee for its students. The university expects to enroll 60 CPS graduates in this fall's freshman class, up from 28 in fall 2008.