Low-income students target of new NU scholarship program

Christina Chaey

Northwestern will partner with QuestBridge, a nonprofit organization that pairs students from low-income families with prestigious universities across the country, beginning next year, officials announced Tuesday.

“The university has been really taking several steps to try to diversify the student population, economically as well as geographically and demographically,” said Michael Mills, associate provost for university enrollment. “One of the things we have found in our research is that students who are from lower-income families tend not to consider top-tier universities.”

NU will provide up to 25 full scholarships and 50 partial scholarships annually to students admitted through the QuestBridge program, Mills said. Approximately 60 percent of NU undergraduate students now receive some form of financial aid, totaling more than $70 million in grants and scholarships.

QuestBridge, which works with 24 colleges and universities, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton and the University of Chicago, provides information about those schools to academically talented students from low-income households.

Students apply to QuestBridge, which matches them to schools and passes on their applications. If students are admitted, they automatically receive funding.

The partnership with QuestBridge is part of NU’s continued effort to extend its reach to low-income students, Mills said.

Earlier this year, the university announced its new no-loan and loan-cap policies, effective beginning the 2008-09 academic year. With these policies, the university will eliminate student loans and replace them with grants for students who demonstrate financial need. It will also put its loan-cap policy into effect, which will cap subsidized Stafford or Perkins loans at no more than $20,000 over four years. The university will fund these programs as well as the QuestBridge scholarships with endowment earnings.

The university anticipates that the partnership will benefit both the university and those students who demonstrate financial need, said Mills and Al Cubbage, vice president for university relations.

“We think there’s a real benefit to the university to have a good mix of students from different households from all over, so that’s really the impetus for it,” Mills said. “It’s just another kind of arrow in our quiver in the attempt to reach a broad array of high-achieving students.”

QuestBridge works to offer low-income students the best education they can receive, said Tim Brady, CEO of the Quest Scholars Program.

“There are many low-income students in the U.S. that are academically competitive, but who are getting bad, little or no advice about college,” Brady said. “QuestBridge fills this counseling void and makes the students aware of the available opportunities.”

The partnership with QuestBridge is something the university has been considering for a while, Mills said. QuestBridge has been looking to form another partnership with an elite school, he added.

“We are very excited about our partnership with Northwestern,” Brady said. “We believe that NU’s participation in the QuestBridge programs shows that NU’s commitment to socioeconomic diversity goes beyond their new no-loan financial aid policy and shows they are committed to proactively finding the students.”

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