OGDEN â€” Weber State University announced a new scholarship program Tuesday that will encourage students to reach their education goals without worrying about the cost of school.
The new â€œDream Weberâ€ scholarship program will debut this fall and provide free tuition to Utah resident students whose annual household income is $25,000 or less. Students must also be eligible to receive a Pell Grant, a federal grant offered to those who meet certain requirements and have a financial need.
â€œOur goal is to communicate with students that they can achieve their dreams of a higher education,â€ said WSU President Ann Millner.
â€œIf they thought it wasnâ€™t possible to go school, they can go to school and they achieve their educational dreams.â€
The program is made possible through private donations designated for scholarships for those with acute financial need. The private donations, combined with federal financial aid and state funds, will finance the program.
Modeled after a program in Texas, Dream Weber is the first tuition-free program of its kind in Utah.
Ogden City School District Superintendant Noel Zabriskie said he is really excited about the announcement.
â€œAnything that is going to minimize or remove obstacles for young people to do post-high school education is a win for everybody,â€ he said.
â€œItâ€™s a win for the studentâ€™s family, a win for the community and a win for the studentâ€™s future family. Weâ€™re feeling really positive about it.â€
He said he hopes the program can help many of the students in the Ogden district.
About 72 percent of Ogden students qualify for free or reduced lunch, which Zabriskie said was an indicator that most of those students would also qualify for the Dream Weber program.
WSU administrators said the goal of the program is to make higher education accessible to students who wouldnâ€™t typically pursue higher education goals because of socioeconomic background and financial obstacles.
â€œI think this will be an incredibly important program for helping students with financial need have access to higher education,â€ Millner said.
â€œThey can graduate and become our future teachers, medical personnel, community leaders and business leaders, so we are, with this program, really preparing the next generation of talent in our community.â€
Although the program begins in the fall, students must file the appropriate financial aid paperwork before March 1. Additional paperwork from the university needs to be completed by March 15.
Both new and ongoing students are eligible for the program, and students are required to carry a full course load of at least 12 credits. A student can receive an award for up to eight semesters.
As long as students maintain eligibility, Millner said, they will be funded for four years, giving them enough time to earn a bachelorâ€™s degree.
University officials estimate that as many as 1,800 students qualify for the assistance.
For more information about the program, visit www.weber.edu/dreamweber.