Some employees at Western Illinois University are raising money that could help their co-workers who were laid off or furloughed afford higher education.
A benefit of working at Western is that employees can take six hours’ worth of college classes for free every semester. After seven years of working at the university, employees can get 50% off their dependents’ college tuition.
Those perks are now gone for the more than 100 Western employees laid off in April as a result of the state’s budget crisis. For those furloughed employees who are having to take a pay cut, putting a child through college might prove too costly even with half off tuition.
The "WIU Takes Care of its Own" scholarship was created in response.
Molly Homer, an academic advisor at Western and vice president of Western’s chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois, said furloughed and laid off employees can apply for the scholarship for either themselves or their dependents to help them afford tuition at Western.
She credits another academic advisor, Ron Pettigrew, for coming up with the idea. The effort is supported by both UPI and Western’s administration. She said it shows the good that can come when both groups work together.
The minimum scholarship award will be $500, but Homer said it could grow depending on how much money is raised.
“The scholarship is not one where we are going to endow it and build up a lot of funds before funds are distributed. It’s going to be that all the money that is raised goes out to scholarships immediately,” Homer said.
She said the first round of scholarships will go out in time for the fall semester.
“I think we could at least give two scholarships out and hopefully, a lot more than that if we raise more money,” Homer said. “So, it all depends on how much money we raise.”
Donations to the WIU Takes Care of Its Own fund are being accepted online and through text message. To donate, text the word ‘WIUCARES’ to 41444.
Laid off or furloughed employees can apply to receive scholarship funds for themselves or their dependents through Western’s scholarship office.