February e-Parent Newsletter
In this issue:
- Alternative Spring Break
- FAFSA and MAP Reminder
- Dugout Remodel and New Commuter Meal Plan
The IWU Parent Fund: Lives Lost, Educations Saved
Elyse Nelson Winger
On Saturday, March 9, 41 Illinois Wesleyan students and three staff members will board a charter bus and begin a 24-hour trek to Texas. While this Chaplain and Coordinator of Alternative Spring Break (ASB) anticipates the need to stretch her achy limbs by Sunday afternoon, I also know that this first leg of our trip will signal the beginning of new connections across class years, majors, and cultural backgrounds. (Some of my favorite reflections from last year were from students who later confessed nervousness about taking a trip with so many they didn't know, followed by the great surprise of unexpected friendships that continued on campus well after the trip.) Once in Laredo, we'll settle into our digs for the week at St. Martin de Porres church, attend an orientation session, and get down to the business of sharing in Habitat for Humanity's vision of "a world where everyone has a decent place to live."
This will be the seventh year of ASB at Illinois Wesleyan, a program that has taken students to the hills of Appalachia and the streets of Atlanta, to neighborhoods in Miami and Mobile. This year, we will spend five working days with the Habitat affiliate in Laredo, Texas, ready to do what is needed on site—from caulking to painting, siding to sanding, pole digging to wall raising. In addition to a "Mexican Fiesta" night hosted by the Laredo affiliate, we will also spend our evenings getting to know the city and its people, over 95.6% of whom are of Hispanic or Latino descent. We'll also spend time in small groups reflecting on our experiences on site, the meaning of our service, and how it all relates to social justice and our own senses of vocation and purpose. This, for me, is one of the most valuable elements of the program. We certainly want to facilitate students' commitment to serving others in our communities. We are also called, I believe, to reflect on why this "doing good" matters and how and when it participates in larger movements of social justice and community transformation.
To that end, ASB isn't just a week every March. Participants also commit to team-building events where we address social justice issues alive in the local context in which we'll be working. During fall semester, Professor of Political Science Greg Shaw led the group in a conversation about immigration in the United States, providing an overview of immigration history and policy as well as engaging us about our own families' immigration histories. This spring, we watched portions of a documentary called "Poor Kids," and talked about the effect of homelessness and inadequate housing for children and families in the U.S. By the time we leave for our trip, we will also have staged a "Housing Simulation," where students take on the identity of a low-income individual seeking decent housing and visiting various community resources, like landlords, shelters and city offices. My hope is that these preparations will contribute to the depth of students' experiences in Laredo, and that they will be inspired to continue seeking ways to serve and do justice on campus and beyond.
If your student has an interest in this kind of service-learning and reflection, please encourage him or her to apply for ASB 2014!
February is Financial Aid Awareness Month! While I realize that February does not automatically conjure up warm images of financial aid applications and award letters, it is a piece of the puzzle for the college experience. I would like to take this opportunity to bring awareness to financial aid and recognize the importance it plays in many students' lives whether it is scholarships, grants, loans, or student employment. In fact, 96% of our students benefit from one or more of these sources.
The three main topics I would like to discuss are
- Preferential Filing date for the FAFSA and IWU Financial Aid Application
- IRS Data Retrieval Tool
- Checking MyIWU for missing documents
Preferential Filing Date
Traditionally, we have encouraged families to file the FAFSA and IWU Financial Aid applications by March 15 for returning students and March 1 for new students. In order to simplify the process, we are suggesting that new and returning students complete the financial aid forms by March 1. Using estimated figures until the tax returns are completed is acceptable. When you correct the FAFSA with completed 2012 tax return figures, we will want you to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT)
Last year the IRS Data Retrieval tool was introduced to provide a balance between simplifying the process and providing the most accurate information. When a student or parent changes their FAFSA tax return filing status from "Will File" to "Completed," we are encouraging them to use the IRS DRT, which will pull the information from the IRS to the FAFSA. To use this process, the tax returns need to have been submitted electronically three weeks (eight weeks for paper returns) before those figures become available to correct the FAFSA. When you use the IRS DRT, please make sure to enter the address exactly as you reported to the IRS on your tax return. Also, please remember to proceed to the end of the FAFSA to submit the corrections after retrieving the figures from the IRS.
Using MyIWU for missing documents
While the initial applications are the FAFSA and IWU Financial Aid Applications, other documents may be needed after the applications are reviewed. There can also be documents needed after the financial aid proposal is sent out. Students can check for missing documents and accept award proposals though MyIWU. This is the same portal where students send and retrieve emails, register for classes, and check on grades. Regarding missing documents, we are encouraging students to check this site every two to three weeks after March 1 to see what required information is missing. If your student is not familiar with that process, they can use this information to guide them:
As always, we welcome families to contact us by phone or email if you should have any questions. We want to continue to help make an Illinois Wesleyan University education affordable. While the state, federal, and private grants help with this goal, we realize that 85% of the grants a student receives are IWU grants and scholarships. With this in mind, we are very appreciative for the gifts made to the University from alumni, friends and parents that allow us to help our students.
Karla C. Carney-Hall, Ph.D.
Dugout Remodel and New Commuter Meal Plan
Fall 2013 will bring several exciting changes in our campus food service. First, the DugOut (the food court in the Memorial Center) will receive a major renovation this summer. The renovation will allow us to offer four food service stations including a soup/salad bar, an international station, a burrito bowl option, and the Sub Connection. We will also add a convenience store-like food area where students can purchase grab-n-go items later into the evening. Finally, our dining area will get a major upgrade with new seating and attractive spaces. In order to encourage students to use this space, we are also adjusting our meal plan options.
All meal plans for 2013-14 will move to the "block plan" style, instead of the "traditional" plan that fixes meals in only one location. Our largest meal plan will be the Block 220 plan (with $50 munch money) and is designed for our most consistent eaters on campus. The Block 175 and Block 130 plans remain the same. Additionally, for off-campus students and students in approved housing who are not required to have a meal plan (the Gates at Wesleyan residents, sorority women, etc.), we have added a commuter meal plan. This new plan is a Block 75 with $150 in munch money (cost: $715/semester). Essentially, it covers about five meals/week and allows for tremendous flexibility for students living off campus. We are excited that these options will allow more students to continue connecting with each other in on-campus food service areas. Students sign up for their meal plan when they select their housing options for next year.
Jeff Mavros ‘98
The IWU Parent Fund: Lives Lost, Educations Saved
As the director of the Wesleyan Fund for Annual Giving, I spend my days raising money from alumni and friends in support of our current students. It is rewarding work, and it is ever important in these challenging financial times.
And while our incredible student scholars, artists and athletes inspire me and affirm my commitment to this task, there is a particularly deserving and disadvantaged subset of our student population that reminds me regularly of why I do the work I do. They are the students who have lost a breadwinning parent to death or permanent disability and don't have the means to finish their Illinois Wesleyan education.
For over 50 years, the University has dutifully supported students who find themselves in these tragic circumstances, and I have been fortunate enough to work with parents and others to raise money for our Parent Fund for the last eight years.
The IWU Parent Fund began in 1960 during a football game when Charles W. Merritt, the father of an IWU student on the team, learned that the father of one of his son's teammates had died suddenly not long before. Mr. Merritt passed a paper bag around the stadium right then and there to collect money to help the family with college costs…and Illinois Wesleyan families have come to each other's aid ever since. Since its inception 53 years ago, the Parent Fund has assisted over 300 IWU students.
Now more than ever, post-secondary education is the key to better job prospects, higher earning potential and a better quality of life. And this is especially true of a degree from a selective and reputable institution like Illinois Wesleyan. For this reason, the IWU Parent Fund truly transforms the lives of our students and renews their hope for the future when all looks lost.
Currently there are four students on campus relying on Parent Fund support, but we have had as many as nine recipients in recent years. And given the often sudden nature of events that necessitate Parent Fund support, we never know how many students will need this assistance in a given year. Thus, we never know if what we have raised will suffice.
And as much as I can tell you about the importance of the Fund and the impact it has on our aspiring leaders, I think it best to share with you remarks from past recipients themselves. The following are excerpts:
From Travis Williams '10
"My father always knew the value of a college education and sought to ensure that his children would receive what he did not. Of all places, Illinois Wesleyan is where he wanted me to receive my education. It is only with your contributions that I am able to honor and fulfill his wish. For that, I am truly thankful. You have brought peace when it was needed most. My family and I are truly grateful for your generosity and commitment."
From Michael Panno '13
"My earliest memories of Illinois Wesleyan are attending football and basketball games with my dad. Although he did not attend IWU, he was a huge Titan fan. When he died unexpectedly, it was devastating. Immediately there were questions about whether I should postpone college to help with details at home. Would I be able to pay tuition? How would we manage? I am so grateful to the Parent Fund for allowing me to continue to be a part of the Illinois Wesleyan family. The day my dad passed forever changed many aspects of my life, but thanks to the Illinois Wesleyan University family it did not change my college plans."
From Amy Uden '11
"As a parent of a college student, I'm sure you'll understand why four years ago, when I came to Illinois Wesleyan as a freshman, my first thought was how incredibly noisy college kids can be. Yet my sophomore year began with a much more subdued set of sounds. I heard the silence between my mom's words as she gave the news of the stroke that unexpectedly followed my father's brain cancer surgery. I heard the monitors' beating draw to a close in the hospital room, on the heels of our quiet prayers. Then, while heading home, I heard nothing but silent questions about picking up the pieces and learning to live a joyful life like the one my dad had exemplified. Of course, there have been occasions of sadness since that day when I first faced silence where my dad had been in my life and recognized the stillness of absence. Through the remainder of my time at IWU, though, I have been blessed to find that I now have a new type of stillness: peace. I cannot thank IWU enough for all I received and learned during my time there, nor the Parent Fund donors for their kindness during one of the hardest chapters of that time. What I can do, however, is remind people of the good that can be done even by the simplest, quietest ways of giving. I can do my best to use my education to give back to my community, as a tribute to both my alma mater and my father. I can ask you to join me in doing good, to come alongside me as I get out there and make some noise for the benefit of future Illinois Wesleyan students in need."
These are the words of just three of our recent recipients—among the hundreds we have helped over the life of the Fund. But their gratitude speaks for all those who have relied on the Parent Fund over the years.
The IWU community is a family, and it is a family that helps one another in times of need. You may receive a letter or phone call about the Parent Fund in the weeks and months ahead, and if you are in a position to make even a modest contribution to the Parent Fund, please do so. Every gift helps as we try to fulfill the promise of an IWU education for each one of our students.
If you have questions about the Parent Fund or would like to pledge your support, you may contact me at (309) 556-3024 or email@example.com at any time. Or simply make a gift online at www.titanpride.org/parentfund . Thank you, and I wish your student the best of luck for the remainder of the school year.