Western should lure Tennessee students with aid

In an ideal world, people could go to school wherever they wanted and money would be no object whatsoever.

But with tuition rates soaring year after year, that’s just not realistic.

Money can dictate where you go to school. But Western wants to keep them coming to the Hill.

Luther Hughes, associate vice president for enrollment management, and the rest of his admissions team are considering a financial aid package for Tennessee students who would be eligible for a new lottery-funded scholarship similar to the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship.

Tennessee high school students and current college freshmen with a grade point average of 3.0 and a 19 or better ACT score could receive as much as $3,000 a year.

Hughes said he does not know what kind of financial package Western can offer.

Regardless, this is an important incentive Western needs to consider. Yes, students are attracted to Western for other reasons such as nationally known academic programs, renovated dorms and a good location. But there needs to be something that will lure the other Tennessee students who might have to hold several jobs or have parents who cannot pay for their college education.

Tuition this year at Middle Tennessee State University is $3,910 while students who attend the University of Tennessee pay $4,450. Through Western’s Tuition Incentive Program, the university can offer a competitive rate.

But that rate won’t be as competitive under this new scholarship. With this scholarship, some Tennesseans could pay as little as $1,000 a year to go to school in their home state. The rate after the scholarship is cheaper than tuition in Kentucky’s community college system – tuition there is $1,185 a semester. If they can get a university education for that price and stay at home, why would they want to pay double to get a similar education out-of-state?

Of course, Western will and shouldn’t try to compete with a low price, especially since Kentucky residents have to pay $4,000 a year. Rather, it should offer an aid package that will make Western a good deal for its price. Western should continue to recruit students and show why Western is the right university for them. If someone likes the campus and then is offered a reasonable price to attend, then they will be more likely to come.

This financial initiative is vital to maintaining the university’s geographic diversity of its students – more out of state students come from the Volunteer State than anywhere else. There still will be some students who will be lost to the new scholarship, but if Western takes in every initiative it can, it will be more likely that there will still be Tennessee students who start or continue their education on the Hill this fall.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 9-member board of student editors.