Scholarships make college affordable for growing number of students

May 16, 2012


Lisle, Illinois ~ As the cost of attending college continues to climb across the country, more students than ever are depending on scholarships, grants and other forms of financial aid to fund their education.

A similar phenomenon occurs at Benedictine University, only its students have dozens of scholarships for which they can apply to help them make college more affordable – even free. Last year, 96 percent of freshmen received some form of financial aid and 56 percent of all Benedictine students received need-based aid. The average annual award package per student was $16,602.

But while support from generous University alumni and other donors have helped more Benedictine students attain a high-quality, values-based education, the need for assistance continues to outweigh the resources.

This year, requests for scholarship applications tripled, according to Pat Ariano, executive director of Stewardship Development at Benedictine University.

“There is now more of a need for financial support from academic scholarships than ever before,” Ariano said. “This was evident as we experienced a spike from 100 to more than 300 students applying for Benedictine scholarships.”

Each year, the University awards scholarships to students who demonstrate that they have financial need, an outstanding GPA in a specific major, leadership skills and high class standing.

This academic year, students were awarded $320,000 in endowed scholarships – up from about $250,000 awarded in 2009.

Students showed their appreciation for these scholarships at the University’s Scholar’s Society Brunch in mid-April, where they thanked scholarship founders for helping to offset the cost of their college education.

The Scholar’s Society Brunch gives students the opportunity to share how their awards have made an impact on their lives and hear from the founding donor about the significance of each scholarship.

At this year’s event, four members of the Benedictine University Board of Trustees were presented with the first Impact Awards for their contributions to student scholarships. Trustees are supporting pillars of the institution and as such were the first recipients of this prestigious award. The awards were presented to the following individuals:

Will Gillett, chairman of the board, founded the Margaret M. Gillett Scholarship; James Melsa, founded the James and Katherine Melsa Scholarship; Peter Wrenn, helped obtain financial support from the Schmitt Foundation and Jim Beatty, was instrumental in obtaining financial support from the Cuneo Foundation.

Caroline Ebeling earned a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education in 2011 and received both the Margaret M. Gillett and Schmitt Foundation Leaders scholarship. She told attendees at the brunch she would not have been able to attend Benedictine and become the first and second-grade teacher for English as a Second Language (ESL) students that she is today.

“Receiving academic and leadership scholarships made attending Benedictine possible,” Ebeling said. “Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to receive such an exceptional education.”

Sophia Niazi, a Health Sciences major and 2012 graduate, said her scholarships motivated her to work harder in school. She plans to help another student attend Benedictine in the future.

“Scholarships allowed me to thrive during my undergraduate career,” Niazi said. “They allowed me to give my full attention to school and were a catalyst to my work ethic. It feels nice to be rewarded for hard work. In turn, the scholarships made me want to work harder to achieve my goals. What I loved most was the message I received, which is to give back in the future when I am able to.”

Aside from offering substantial academic scholarships, Benedictine has also waived the full cost of online tuition for disaster volunteers and given free or significantly reduced tuition to paramedics, police, firefighters and war veterans through its First Responder Program.

In 2011, the University responded to the country’s high jobless rate among non-degreed adults by offering free tuition to the unemployed through the Illinois Back to Work program.

Those interested in assisting students in need can contribute to a specific scholarship or to a general fund. Learn more or contact Ariano at (630) 829-6003.


Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls more than 5,000 students in 59 undergraduate and 23 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the seventh consecutive year in 2017. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission ( For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, or visit

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