A pilot program at Northern Illinois University will certainly make DeKalb County a better place to live by offering students tuition waivers in exchange for community service.The world has changed, and the old tradition of working your way through university with a summer factory job and a school year food service job has been rendered moot by trade adjustments and rising tuitions and fees. Don't look for a lot of indentured servitude, though.
The Huskie Service Scholars program provides low-income and first-generation students a $1,132 tuition waiver. To receive the waiver, a student must perform 300 hours of community service. Groups of three freshmen or first-year transfer students are paired with a mentor who has been on campus for at least one year.
The program has joined with six campus organizations that already have mentor programs in place: the Asian American Center, the Center for Black Studies, CHANCE, the Latino Resource Center, the Office of Pre-Collegiate Programs and Student Support Services.
“We’re looking for it to instill some engagement in the students and to receive some support, as well,” said Stormie Surles, a graduate assistant in the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning, which is launching the Huskie Service Scholars program. “It’s a win-win situation.”
The students participating receive much-needed tuition assistance while becoming more acclimated to the community. By being placed in groups of four, these students are introduced to more people on campus, making the transition to life in DeKalb that much easier. Doing the community service work instills a sense of pride and teaches students at an impressionable age the importance of community service.On the other hand, the unstated lesson of a summer in the factory often was "finish the degree and don't report back here." Wisconsin's legendary hockey coach Bob Johnson used to tell his players to go home for the summer and work the worst job they could find. The support system is providing a few students with financial aid, but the scut work comes bundled with the class work.
“We’re really looking to serve low-income and first-generation students and become a support system for those students,” said Julia Spears, director of the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning.
The community service work – whether it’s volunteering time at a local social service agency or picking up trash from the side of the road – helps the community.