SIU creates scholarships for new students with Illinois AIM HIGH grant

By Emily Cooper, Staff Reporter

Southern Illinois University will be creating two new scholarships for incoming students with the help of a state grant designed to attract and retain Illinois students.

SIU will be awarding two new scholarships to incoming freshmen if they meet certain criteria –  the SIU AIM HIGH Award and the Saluki Scholars Award – both funded through the AIM HIGH Grant, a $25 million dollar state-funded grant intended to help Illinois public institutions recruit students. 

$25 million put towards the grant is being split up between Illinois’ 12 public institutions, Jennifer DeHaemers, associate chancellor for enrollment management, said.


“The amount of money [each school received] or was eligible for in that pool was based on how much [the school was] awarded in 2017,” DeHaemers said. 

SIU received over $1.9 million from the grant, which is expected to be used over the course of five years.

“We will keep awarding this as long as the state of Illinois funds it,” DeHaemers said. “If they choose not to fund this creates some challenges for everybody, but we have structured it in a way so that we can best fulfill the promise we are making when we award this scholarship.”

Dee Rotolo, Interim Director of Financial Aid, said the goal of this scholarship is to increase enrollment to keep Illinois students going to Illinois schools – hopefully to SIU.

“Anytime you’re awarding more money to students to help them pay for the cost, it should increase [enrollment] and bring more students [to the university,]” Rotolo said.

Each school is able to set their own criteria to determine how the award could be used best for their institution, Rotolo said.

“Some institutions have chosen to put that out there that they [are meeting tuition costs with the grant],” DeHaemers said. “When we look at the data about how much financial aid SIU has been awarding students, we meet 87% of the students’ need – if they fill out a FAFSA and have need.”


The overall financial aid the university awards students totals approximately $43 million a year from institutional aid alone, DeHaemers said. 

“We are providing more aid than most institutions in the state or that we compete with in the region,” DeHaemers said. “We are trying to manage our resources, and do it in a strategic way that’s going to help enrollment as well as help students make the education affordable.”

DeHaemers said the awards given by SIU are intended to be renewed for a total of four years as long as the student continues to meet the qualifications.

Eligible students must be a graduate of an Illinois high school,  a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and have a family income of not more than six times the poverty threshold for a family of a specific size, according to the SIU website. The student must also maintain a 3.0 GPA while at SIU to keep the award.

SIU currently offers two merit-based scholarships for incoming freshmen – the SIU Dean’s Scholarship and the University Excellence Award. Both can be stacked with the SIU AIM HIGH Award.

Students eligible for the Dean’s Scholarship have an ACT score of 24 or better and can receive $4,000-$6,000 from it, according to DeHaemers.

“In an effort to attract more of those students, we added the AIM HIGH award of $2,000 a year that can be stacked with the Dean’s Scholarship,” DeHaemers said. 

Students who receive the Dean’s Scholarship and meet AIM HIGH criteria are granted this award automatically with no additional application.

Not all AIM HIGH funding will go to the AIM HIGH Award because the school’s eligibility for the grant is based on how much scholarship money was distributed to Illinois students in the Fall 2017 semester, DeHaemers said. 

The university has to keep their scholarship spending at the same level as the 2017-2018 school year to continue receiving grant funding.

“In order to do all of that, we came up with another scholarship award called [the] Saluki Scholars Award, valued at $1,500 a year,” DeHaemers said.

This scholarship is available to new freshmen and transfer students starting in Fall 2019, DeHaemers said.

“At the present time, the university doesn’t award academic scholarships to students that have less than a 23 ACT or the corresponding SAT score; and that’s a population of students we get a fair number of,” DeHaemers said. “We thought that being able to offer scholarships to that group would be helpful.”

To be eligible for this award, new freshmen must have an ACT of 21-23/SAT 1060-1150 and a 3.0 GPA, as well as meet the AIM HIGH criteria. Transfer students must have at least 30 credit hours and a 3.25 GPA in addition to meeting the criteria.

DeHaemers said the scholarships will give students considering SIU a stronger reason to choose the university.

“I think it will help some students make a decision and [to] others it will just reinforce their decision,” DeHaemers said.

Staff reporter Emily Cooper can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @ECooper212. 

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