May 05, 2009

ASU establishes Barack Obama Scholars Program

Posted: May 05, 2009

ASU expands qualifying family income level for scholars program to $60,000, increasing number of students receiving funding for tuition, fees, books, and room and board from 500 to more than 1,600

In response to President Barack Obama’s challenge for the United States to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the year 2020, Arizona State University is increasing its student accessibility by expanding its financial aid program to more Arizona families.
 
As a commitment to the national challenge to enhance college accessibility, ASU is expanding its most important financial aid program and renaming it the President Barack Obama Scholars Program. The program will provide funding for direct costs to all academically qualified Arizona freshmen from families that earn less than $60,000. Covered costs – minus expected family contribution – include tuition, fees, books, and room and board. Obama Scholars also will have a work-study campus job requirement as part of the total aid package.
 
The Obama Scholars Program more than doubles qualifying family income from $25,000 to $60,000 and more than triples the number of scholars from 500 freshmen this year to more than 1,600 freshmen entering ASU in fall 2009.

A combination of financial aid resources that do not require repayment, including gifts, endowment proceeds and grants will fund the Obama Scholars Program.

The Obama Scholars Program will allow students to participate in aspects of the undergraduate experience critical to their success such as living in residence halls on campus, which increases their likelihood of finishing college. They also will have the opportunity to participate in a mentoring program.

ASU will honor President Obama with the naming of the scholarship program at its commencement ceremony May 13, where he is the commencement speaker. Some of the new Barack Obama Scholars will be introduced at graduation.
 
Since 2002, when Michael M. Crow became president of ASU, the university has embraced access, quality and impact as its mission as the New American University. ASU has increased its enrollment by 17,000 students in the past eight years – while enhancing student quality each year – as a response to the growing number of Arizona high school graduates academically qualified to attend college.
 
In addition, this will be the second time in five years that ASU has enhanced its commitment to Arizona students, expanding its portfolio of institutionally funded need and merit based financial aid programs.

“Our mission coincides with the education goals enunciated by President Obama,” says President Crow. “To remain globally competitive the United States must vastly increase the number of college graduates it produces and the biggest obstacle to college attendance in America is not lack of academic ability but rather insufficient family income.
 
“It is our hope that by naming this scholarship program for President Obama that we will not only honor him but also set an example for other colleges and universities so that collectively we can reach the President’s college graduation goal before 2020.”

As of 2007 the United States Census Bureau reports that only 27 percent of the population has attained a bachelor's degree or higher. According to a 2007 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), that college graduation rate places the U.S. 21st among the world’s 30 most industrialized nations in college completion. To reach President Obama’s college graduation goal, the nation will need to significantly increase the percentage of high school graduates who enroll in and complete college.

In Arizona, the picture is even worse than it is nationally. Only nine out of 100 students who begin high school go on to college and earn a bachelor’s degree, placing the state 46th in the nation in four-year college graduation rates.

Studies have shown that college attendance is more dependent on family income than academic ability. A 2006 report by the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance estimated that in the current decade between 1.4 million and 2.4 million college-qualified high school graduates would be unable to earn a bachelor’s degree and lack of access to college because of affordability “is clearly a key component in this equation.”

"Public universities like ASU have an obligation to educate as many people as possible,” says Philip VanderMeer, ASU associate professor of history and chair of the University Senate. “The Obama Scholarship Program is an extremely important and exciting means by which ASU is meeting this challenge."

“The establishment of the President Barack Obama Scholars Program is not only an expansion of Arizona State University efforts to increase access to higher education but, in fact, a large-scale effort to provide them with the 21st-century skills that Americans must have to remain competitive,” says Carlos Castillo-Chavez, ASU Regents Professor and Joaquin Bustoz Jr. Professor of Mathematical Biology. “Frankly, I cannot imagine a more impacting way to honor the President of the United States, and it is my hope that ASU's initiative is followed by public and private institutions across our great nation.”