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Blackburn Promised

by Rachel Burke

Blackburn College prides itself on being affordable and meeting the financial needs of its students. There are many scholarship opportunities, and, as of last year, the campus added two new programs. The Macoupin Promise was announced in September of 2017, but the very similar program, the Blackburn Promise was rolled out only for this year’s incoming students. The program will not be available for any other group of students, due to the advice of a consultant group the college hired.

The Macoupin Promise is a financial aid program that provides an almost free education for Blackburn students living in Macoupin County.  The program includes tuition and fees but not room and board. It only applies for students with a household income of less than $60,000. The Blackburn Promise is for all incoming students who meet the admissions requirement, enroll as full-time students and participate in the work program. There is no household income requirement, but room and board is accounted for. The students are only required to pay for the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) from their FAFSA.

The Blackburn Promise program is only available for the incoming students in the fall 2018 and spring 2019 semesters. According to Director of Financial Aid Alisha Kapp, a consultant recommended that the college cancel the program. The students coming into Blackburn receiving this financial aid will continue to receive it as long as they keep meeting the requirements.

Currently, 54% of incoming students are taking advantage of this program. The eligibility requirements for the Blackburn Promise were so low, so the fact that more than half of the incoming students were able to utilize this program shows how helpful it has been for their pockets.

The problem with the program is that it costs too much money. The Dysart Group is the consultant who recommended that the school alter the program. According to their website, they “offer advice and counsel regarding recruitment, financial aid, retention, pricing and revenue growth for colleges and universities.” They were working on the recruitment cycle for the fall 2018 and spring 2019 semesters, which are the only semesters the Blackburn Promise is being offered to new students. In an email, Kapp said, “The Blackburn Promise was a collaboration of many offices across campus,” but she did not say that it was initiated or encouraged by the consultant group they hired. This suggests that Dysart believes the program was never in the best interest of the campus to begin with.

When the Macoupin Promise was announced, former President John Comerford acknowledged concerns about how the college was going to afford this huge scholarship. He admitted that the $60,000 income maximum was there to keep the program from costing the college too much money. The Blackburn Promise does not have an income maximum, and it applies to students both inside and outside Macoupin County. There were no concerns or explanations of how the campus was going to be able to afford the Blackburn Promise, and now a consultant recommended the program be switched. In terms of retention, financial aid and recruitment, this program has a lot to offer for the campus. If Dysart specializes in all of those aspects, including pricing and revenue growth for colleges, they must believe it’s the only problem with the program. Kapp did not respond to follow up questions on whether Blackburn is able to afford this kind of program or how it will be altered in the future.

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