Innovative WSU Program Encourages Students to Dream

OGDEN, Utah – Weber State University is launching a new program encouraging students to dream big, without worrying about the price tag.

 WSU president Ann Millner announces the Dream Weber
program at the Utah State Capitol on Tuesday.
The Dream Weber program will provide free tuition to Utah resident students whose annual household income is equal to or less than $25,000 and who are Pell Grant eligible.

The program is made possible through private donations designated for scholarships for underserved populations with acute financial need. These private donations, combined with federal and state financial aid funds, will finance the program.

University representatives announced the program at the Utah State Capitol Tuesday afternoon in front of an audience that included elected officials, local school superintendents, community leaders and current high school students.

“Weber State University has a long tradition of making educational dreams a reality,” said WSU President Ann Millner. “This program has tremendous potential to lend a hand and improve the economic circumstances of many individuals all across our community.”

In her remarks, Millner shared the story of how a former president at Weber, Aaron Tracy, helped a struggling, first-generation student get through school. That student, J. Willard Marriott, went on to found Marriott International, Inc., a leading lodging company.

Modeled after a program in Texas, the innovative, free-tuition outreach is the first of its kind in the state of Utah.

Davis County School Superintendent Bryan Bowles speaks
at the Dream Weber press conference on Tuesday.
WSU administrators say the goal is to make higher education accessible to students from socioeconomic backgrounds that wouldn’t typically pursue higher education because of a lack of financial resources.

“Financial hardship shouldn’t be an impediment to pursuing a college education,” said
Provost Michael Vaughan. “This program is WSU’s commitment to helping provide entry-level access to higher education; Weber State is proud of its long track record of serving the community college role for northern Utah.”

Recent studies show a growing correlation between access to education and personal income. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the lifetime earning potential for Americans with a college diploma was nearly double that of their counterparts without a degree.

“Higher education is vitally important to the economic prosperity of our state,” said Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, who also spoke at Tuesday’s announcement. “I applaud Weber State University for taking this innovative approach to ensure that financial limitations do not prevent Utah residents from pursuing a college education.”

Dream Weber presenter Seleste Sanchez, a 2009 graduate 
of WSU, asks a question during the press conference on Tuesday.
The new program will begin in fall 2010, but in order to qualify for the free tuition, students need to file the appropriate financial aid paperwork before March 1. Applicants will need to complete additional WSU paperwork prior to March 15.

Under the program, students still may have to pay for books and fees out of pocket.

“We plan to raise additional funds to make Dream Weber an ongoing program,” said Millner.

University officials hope the new program will encourage prospective students, especially first-generation college students, to look in to financial aid opportunities and start thinking about pursuing a college degree.

In addition to the household income and Utah resident requirements, students must qualify for federal (Pell Grant) financial aid to be eligible. Dream Weber students will be required to carry a full course load of at least 12 credits. A student can receive an award for up to eight semesters—long enough to complete a bachelor’s degree. Both current and prospective students are eligible to apply if they meet the requirements. University officials estimate that as many as 1,800 students would qualify for the assistance.

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Ann Millner, president
801-626-6001 •

Michael Vaughan, provost
801-626-6006 •

John Kowalewski, director of Media Relations
801-626-7212 •