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Southern Illinois University extends tuition-free offer to transfer students with family incomes below $63,575

Southern Illinois University extends tuition-free offer to transfer students with family incomes below $63,575

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CARBONDALE -- Southern Illinois University is extending its offer to cover all tuition and fees of some first-time students in 2021 to also include some transfer students.

In late September, the university announced its Saluki Commitment pledge to cover any remaining tuition and mandatory fees for first-time Illinois students with a family income below $63,575 who meet all eligibility criteria.

On Tuesday, SIU announced the pledge would also be extended to first-time transfer students enrolling full-time for the fall 2021 semester or thereafter.

In both categories, SIU plans to cover tuition and mandatory fees remaining after all eligible state and federal aid is applied, and students must also meet other limited academic, financial, age and residency requirements.

"Sometimes, there are gaps between what financial aid packages cover and the cost of attendance. Those gaps can be beyond the reach of many students and their families. We are committed to filling them," SIU Carbondale Chancellor Austin Lane said in a statement.

When the program was originally announced during September's meeting of the SIU Board of Trustees, Lane called it a "game changer" for students and the university. Officials also said they expected the initiative to boost enrollment. "Family income should not be a barrier for any qualified student to attend SIU, whether the student is going to the college for the first time or transferring from another college or university," Lane said Tuesday.

As well, Lane said the decision to extend the pledge to transfer students reflects the university's collaboration with community colleges.

The program will cover four consecutive semesters for transfer students, and eight for first-time students.

Using fall 2020 enrollment statistics, the program would apply to 236 first-time students and 138 transfer students had it been in place this year. However, officials noted last month that those numbers may grow substantially next year because the existence of the program may encourage more people who meet the eligibility criteria to apply.

SIU Carbondale estimates the annual cost of the Saluki Commitment program for first-time and transfer students to be about $1.2 million, spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith said. The program will be funded by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission's Aim High pilot grant program, she said. The amount of gap funding the university will cover per student could range from zero to a few thousand dollars. For new students with zero expected family contribution, the cost for this academic year would be $469 per student, Goldsmith said.

To be eligible for the Saluki Transfer Commitment program, students must be dependent Illinois residents under age 24 who attended an Illinois high school, and have a GPA of 2.0 with 26 or more transferable credits. In addition to having a family income of less than $63,575, they must also have assets less than $50,000 based on a FASFA application and be eligible for federal financial aid.

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