Bridging the financial gap to student success

There is no denying the inevitable - college is expensive. Tuition costs at state schools, as well as private institutions, are rising across the country. Huntington University, however, is trying to make that financial burden a little lighter for students with the help of the University Fund, a program that underwrites a portion of student aid through scholarships and other assistance.

In the grand scheme of things, a couple of scholarships may not seem like that much. But for one student, it was the difference between a Christian education and a state school.

"I found out about the different scholarships on my first official visit to the school," said Lara (Smitley) Hillenberg, a 2008 communication studies alumna from Leo, Ind. "My admissions counselor told my parents and me about the assorted scholarships, and we took home a brochure with all of the information. After looking it over thoroughly, we decided on a few to go for."

After a process of applications, Hillenberg found that coming to HU was actually less expensive than going to a state school.

"Frankly, the student aid and scholarships were a big factor in deciding where to go to school," Hillenberg said. "I knew that cost was something to take into consideration, and God provided through these scholarships. Without them, I'm not quite sure where I would have gone."

Students, such as Hillenberg, who attend HU only pay about 65 percent of the true cost of their education. With 91 percent of the student body receiving financial aid, there is an even greater need to bridge that gap.

Through Together: The Campaign for Huntington University, the goal is to increase the University Fund by $3 million. Annual unrestricted gifts to the University Fund enable HU to remain competitively priced while maintaining academic excellence.

The University Fund campaign makes getting a college education a viable option for everyone.

For Hillenberg, a college education was more than just a GPA and a diploma. She knew that HU is a community of students, faculty and staff, and she wanted to be part of that experience.

One of the most important things to Hillenberg about getting a Christian education was that she never had to worry about her faith being disregarded in the classroom. She knew that her professors were not just seeking to develop her intellectual abilities, but they were also striving to push her spiritually.

"I would argue that a college experience encompasses a ton more than simply going to class," Hillenberg said. "Being surrounded by Christian influences is something that I really cherished."