SEMO aims to address college affordability with new scholarship program

A new scholarship program will give qualifying students a chance to attend Southeast Missouri State University for free.

SEMO, which reallocated funds from an undisclosed program to create the new scholarship, had just over 900 incoming applicants who would have qualified for the program this fall. That number is expected to rise next fall, when the new scholarship takes effect, according to Ann Hayes, SEMO communications director.

To be eligible for the scholarship, called the Will To Do Award, students first must be eligible for the federal Pell Grant, a need-based form of financial aid that currently offers about $6,200 annually per student for higher education. Incoming students that qualify for the Pell Grant must have a minimum 2.75 grade point average and be a resident of Missouri.

The scholarship will supplement the Pell Grant, covering any additional tuition and fees. It will be renewed as long as the student maintains a 2.75 GPA and completes 24 annual SEMO credit hours.

The scholarship program does not have a direct dollar amount on it like the Pell Grant, Hayes said, but rather will bridge the gap between students who qualify for the Pell Grant yet still need financial assistance.

“We are delighted to provide this foundation for students as they start their college careers to give them the sound footing needed to succeed while hopefully reducing their financial stress,” SEMO President Carlos Vargas said in a press release announcing the program.

The scholarship resulted from SEMO reevaluating and reallocating its existing institutional scholarship budget for the last few years. With the announcement of another scholarship that went into effect at the beginning of the current semester, the percentage of incoming students receiving merit aid increased from about 25% to over 70%, Hayes said. With the announcement of this new scholarship program, SEMO expects once again to increase the percentage of incoming students receiving aid.

“This program guarantees students who meet the criteria that they can have the opportunity to attend Southeast without paying anything out of pocket or taking out loans to cover their tuition and general fees,” Hayes said.

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