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Fontbonne Promise Provides Opportunity to Low-Income Students

Debt-free college education can now be a reality for incoming college freshmen at Fontbonne. The school announced last month that they will be awarding at least 30 incoming freshmen full tuition and fees beginning for the Fall 2018 semester.  

The news that Fontbonne would be providing full tuition to students who qualify came shortly after The University of Missouri announced a similar program. Beginning next year, Mizzou promises that they will provide full payment and fees to their institution for any Missouri resident who qualifies for a full Pell grant.

Fontbonne will be offering a similar program in which low-income or first generation college students will be given the opportunity to attend college debt-free. This is an especially lucrative opportunity for students living in and around the Saint Louis area who, Fontbonne President J. Michael Pressimone noted to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, “aren’t likely to get up from St. Louis, South City or North County and drive two hours away. They have obligations that are keeping them here.”

Full scholarships are nothing new for a handful of lucky students here on campus. Sophomore student Michael Brennan, an applied math and computer science major here at Fontbonne, is one of two students awarded a Presidential Scholarship during his senior year of high school in 2016. The Presidential Scholarship is an award given to up to five incoming freshman based on merit.

Student Debt
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Even though the Presidential Scholarship and The Fontbonne Promise are two separate programs, the opportunities that arise from these programs are similar. Both will allow for students to attend college without the hassle and worry of paying for tuition or the burden of paying off loans once they graduate. The benefits for this type of scholarship can be invaluable to students who would otherwise not be able to afford the rising costs of college, including tuition, room and board, and the cost of books. Many students—wanting the college experience but lacking the funds to do so—will end up working long hours and falling behind on their studies. Opportunities, such as these scholarships, can help to ease the stress that comes along with working and going to school at the same time.

Receiving an education with a strong value system is something that is important for many Fontbonne students. President Pressimone echoed these sentiments when discussing the Promise saying:

We believe at Fontbonne we can play a significant role in changing communities through our strong foundation in values-based education. We recognize that many recipients of The Fontbonne Promise will be the first in their family to attend college. This is about providing access to education. By creating positive change in individual families, we are delivering on our promise to the community and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, our founders, to serve the dear neighbor without distinction, something that benefits the entire St. Louis region.”

Graduation Celebration
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“We recognized that part of the problem is a perceived lack of access to higher education,” says Joseph Havis, Vice President for Enrollment Management. “We know that we offer significant financial aid and resources to our neediest students, but many feel like the system precludes them from engaging.”

Although the new Promise is not available to current Fontbonne students, it is a cause that still resonates with Brennan: “The Fontbonne Promise is more about Catholic charity and providing opportunity where there wouldn’t otherwise be opportunity.”

The Promise will be made possible through a combination of “state and federal aid, Fontbonne aid, and donor partnerships.” Plus, there are a few requirements to become eligible for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In addition to being a first-year college student, to qualify students must:

  • Have a $0 EFC (expected family contribution) on FAFSA filed by February 1 of graduating year
  • Be a Missouri resident as defined by Missouri Access eligibility
  • Qualify for enrollment and full-time admission to the institution

“By advertising a free tuition model, we hope that all who thought a private, four-year degree was out of reach [will see that it] is now achievable,” adds Havis. “It all started with the reality that students who have done all that has ever been asked of them, stay out of trouble and do well in school, are left without a path to move forward despite their success.  Now that perception has to change!”

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