BVU Benefactor’s Gift Aims to Decrease Student Debt for 320 Beavers

The landmark Inspiring Achievement Grant will award more than $830,000 to deserving students in their junior and senior years.

An anonymous benefactor has given Buena Vista University more than $830,000 to be used to help economically-disadvantaged students from the Midwest reduce student loans throughout the next four years.

This landmark Inspiring Achievement Grant could impact as many as 320 BVU students, or 80 per year, allowing them to earn their bachelor’s degree with less student debt.

“We are so blessed to receive a major gift from a BVU benefactor who wishes to provide financial support to students eligible for the Federal Pell Grant and the Iowa Tuition Grant (for Iowa residents),” says BVU President Brian Lenzmeier. “The benefactor’s generosity will help keep students in need at BVU throughout the next four years while enabling them to begin their post-BVU lives with more of the resources they’ll need as they build their careers and communities while fulfilling their dreams.”

Students entering their junior and senior years (fourth-year seniors) at BVU's Storm Lake campus next fall are the focus of the first year of the program, with subsequent groups of juniors and seniors benefitting in the following three years. Those qualifying for the grant will have to be full-time at the Storm Lake campus, and either improved their academic performance this year—shown through an increased cumulative GPA (starting at a minimum 2.75)—or have maintained a high level of academic achievement during this school year (3.5 cumulative GPA or higher). Ultimately, the Inspiring Achievement Grant is leveraged as an incentive for students to achieve in class.

“Our new Inspiring Achievement Grant awards will complement the Clifford A. Rae Academic Achievement Awards. The new awards differ in the fact they will only be used to lower student debt, a factor that presents a serious hurdle for many students as they progress toward graduation.”

Kevin McIntyre, Vice President for Enrollment Management

Grant funds would be applied to financial aid packages to replace student loans, thus lowering the amount of loans. Funds will be distributed evenly among all students who meet the criteria, starting in the Fall Semester, 2022. Rising sophomores and juniors, as well as their parents and guardians, were notified of their eligibility for grant funding in the 2022-23 academic year.
 
A similar scholarship program in BVU’s School of Science and the Harold Walter Siebens School of Business has enjoyed unrivaled success since its inception 10 years ago. The Clifford A. Rae Academic Achievement Awards, presented to up to 18 students per year, has seen dozens of BVU students retire debt loads prior to graduation. Those awards have shown to be effective in lowering student debt while simultaneously promoting academic achievement among students who have gone on to be leaders in a multitude of career endeavors.

“Our new Inspiring Achievement Grant awards will complement the Clifford A. Rae Academic Achievement Awards,” says BVU Vice President for Enrollment Management Kevin McIntyre. “The new awards differ in the fact they will only be used to lower student debt, a factor that presents a serious hurdle for many students as they progress toward graduation.”

Here’s how it works: A freshman comes to BVU, earning a financial aid award that includes a Federal Pell Grant and the Iowa Tuition Grant (for Iowa residents)—awards based on the student’s (or their family’s) annual income. If the student performs well academically in their sophomore and/or junior year, and meets one of two criteria detailed previously, they will receive an Inspiring Student Achievement by Lowering Student Debt award. Those who earn the new award will be eligible for awards that would range from $1,500 to $5,000 each year.

Students who earn the award must have a home address in one of the following states: Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Illinois, North Dakota, Missouri, Kansas, or Wisconsin.

It is estimated that 95 percent of all grant recipients will graduate from BVU in four years—another key factor in decreasing student debt.

BVU, rated No. 6 in the 2021 U.S. News & World Report Best Value Schools Among Regional Universities in the Midwest, topped the list among Iowa institutions in a value category that measures need-based grant aid and affordability, among other factors. The University provides approximately $18 million in student financial assistance out of its budget each year. Three-quarters of BVU financial aid comes in the form of scholarships and grants—money that doesn’t have to be repaid.

“College is a one of the most important investments a person will make in the course of their life,” Lenzmeier says. “We are grateful to serve students at BVU, where benefactors continue to make the experience affordable, investing in our students, rewarding them for their hard work in transformative ways like this. As many as 320 dedicated students throughout the next four years will work harder and, as a result, achieve in having their college debt reduced because of the faith an anonymous benefactor has in all that we’re doing at Buena Vista University.”

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