Sept. 13, 2017
Jennifer Gutierrez pegged Northwest Missouri State University as her “dream school” after connecting with representatives of the University at a college fair in her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, and this fall – with the help of the American Dream Grant, which covers 100 percent of tuition and fees for eligible students – her dream is a reality.
Beginning with the fall 2017 freshman class at Northwest, the American Dream Grant covers 100 percent of the tuition and fees for Pell-eligible students. Northwest launched its American Dream Grant program in 2004 as a need-based financial aid initiative to assist undergraduate students who might otherwise find a college education beyond their financial reach.
“For students who come from low-income families, it gives them assurance that they can attend Northwest and get an affordable four-year education,” Charles Mayfield, Northwest’s director of financial assistance, said.
To qualify for the American Dream Grant, a student must be eligible for the federal Pell grant. Missouri students must have scored at least an 18 on the ACT and earned at least a 2.5 high school grade-point average. Out-of-state students must meet eligibility requirements for Northwest’s Bearcat Advantage scholarship to qualify for the American Dream Grant.
Prospective Northwest students apply for the American Dream Grant by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which removes other barriers students and their families may encounter when they are required to complete additional applications. The 2018-19 FAFSA opens Oct. 1.
“Sometimes the smallest thing that gets in the way can prevent students from applying to go to college or continuing through the enrollment process all the way to graduation,” Mayfield said. “We want to remove as many of those things that might get in the way as possible.
“The American Dream Grant helps serve one of those purposes. If they have assurance that tuition and fees will be paid for all four years, then it allows them to spend their energy focused on coursework, the classroom, education, the academic piece that is the important part of college.”
In addition to the American Dream Grant, as part of Northwest’s focusing on affordability, the University includes textbooks and a laptop in its tuition, which is among the lowest in the state and saves students an estimated $7,300 over four years. Northwest also offers 1,200 student employment positions, allowing students to build professional skills through its internationally benchmarked student employment program.
Furthermore, Northwest’s affordability and array of academic resources is helping students graduate with limited debt and secure employment to help them pay any remaining balances. Northwest’s loan default rate is lower than state and national averages, while its graduation rate stands in the 89th percentile of the University's national peer group. Ninety-six percent of Northwest undergraduates and 97 percent of graduates find employment or continue their education within six months of graduation.
For Gutierrez, a freshman math education major, the American Dream Grant is helping her fulfil her dream of pursuing a college degree while alleviating the stress of completing loan applications and other hardships for her parents.
“It feels like I’m returning them a favor by being able to focus on my academics and not stressing them out with additional money problems,” she said.
Gutierrez’s mother and father emigrated from Mexico at the ages of 20 and were crop workers in California before settling in Omaha where they found more opportunities. Today, her father is a culinary chef and her mother is a stay-at-home mom.
At Northwest, Gutierrez is enrolled in the TRIO program and is pursuing her degree in math education with the goal of becoming a teacher, perhaps on a military base. She draws inspiration to work hard toward her degree from seeing the sacrifices her parents have made for her.
“They never got the opportunity to go to college, so they’ve dedicated their lives to making sure I get the opportunities that they didn’t receive,” Gutierrez said. “They had to grow up so fast because they were immigrants and didn’t have as many opportunities as I did being born here.”
Tyler Bears, a freshman from Burlington Junction, Missouri, also is enjoying more freedom to explore his aspirations in agricultural education and political science because he received the American Dream Grant from Northwest this fall. Bears says he chose Northwest because it is close to his home and its affordability allows him to pursue his passions without shouldering a steep financial burden.
“The American Dream Grant is nothing short of a blessing and a godsend,” Bears said. “It lets kids like me who are underprivileged to be able to go to college, and it gives a chance to better ourselves and find a family and find an education at Northwest, something that we love, something that we’re passionate about.”
To learn more about the American Dream Grant and other financial assistance opportunities available at Northwest, visit www.suggest-link.net/FinAid/.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468