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Pilot program helps UD students navigate college

‘Microscholarships’ designed to reward preparation, ease confusion.

The University of Dayton is helping students prepare for college with a pilot program trying a new idea: “microscholarships.”

Eligible students can earn scholarship money for good choices they make to set themselves up for success in college.

It could be $100 for attending a college fair.

Or $500 for earning an A in class.

Or $1,000 for taking the ACT or SAT.

The program is called Raise and UD is among 15 schools nationwide taking part in its earliest stage. Through those actions and others, students who choose to attend UD can earn up to an $8,000 annual scholarship from the university.

“Most people don’t know what kind of academic preparation in high school is going to lead to college success, as well as college funding,” said Sundar Kumarasamy, vice president for enrollment management and marketing at UD. “There’s a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about who earns a scholarship and what do I have to do to earn the maximum scholarship. Those are the kinds of things that are lacking right now in terms of providing a roadmap to college.”

Kumarasamy said the program adds transparency about the “mysterious” financial aid and application process.

It is only available at some high schools this year, and none in the Dayton area.

According to Preston Silverman, CEO of Raise, the program makes the process of getting into college and paying for that education less intimidating.

“This really helps break things down into manageable and achievable goals that students can set for themselves,” he said.

Instead of telling students to work hard for their four years of high school “and we promise things will work out for you,” colleges can provide more of an incentive by rewarding specific activities, Silverman said.

“We’re asking students and families to make a really large leap of faith that that money will be there. And a lot of families don’t know how to access it. It’s just a confusing and intimidating landscape for them to navigate,” he said. “Raise really helps make it real.”

Kumarasamy said the pilot program matches well with UD’s goal to make the college-going process more transparent. The university uniquely this year began offering new students a two-page letter detailing the full cost to earn a degree for their entire four years on campus.

UD also launched a cost guarantee for new students that their financial aid would grow dollar-for-dollar with any tuition increases during their college career. And the university eliminated all fees, which could sometimes be hidden costs that families didn’t consider.

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