BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— When Paige Buschman first started looking at colleges, she didn’t consider Illinois Wesleyan because she didn't know that the university offered such good financial aid.
“I believed private colleges were expensive and prestigious in a way that was not accessible to me,” recalled Buschman, a native of the Chicago suburb of Lemont.
Her search for an outstanding collegiate program in biology, however, led Buschman to Illinois Wesleyan. Her other top choices were large state universities and Concordia University Chicago. While those schools were less expensive in the long run, “it was clear that Illinois Wesleyan was such an exponentially better school with regard to academics that the difference in price was not enough to deter me from coming here,” said Buschman.
She said her financial aid offer “made a $54,000 experience totally comparable to schools with a price tag at a quarter of that price. At the end of the day, Illinois Wesleyan does a lot to make coming here affordable. This is true for me and many other people I talk to.”
For Buschman, who eventually changed her major to sociology and will graduate in May, the personal relationships she’s developed with faculty and staff have made an “enormous difference” in her experience in ways she may have never expected. Some of those relationships yielded financial benefits as well.
Her advisor, for example, suggested Buschman apply for the prestigious Eckley Summer Scholars and Artists award, which provides a $4,000 stipend and on-campus housing for selected students to conduct research fulltime over the summer. In addition, Buschman was selected by Illinois Wesleyan as its 2016 Student Laureate, an honor bestowed by the Lincoln Academy of Illinois, which also includes a monetary reward.
“I have been approached by faculty and staff members left and right about opportunities like these for academic growth that have often helped me financially as well,” she said. “I’m very grateful for that.”
Buschman also has high praise for staff members in Financial Aid. “As a first-generation college student, I’ve needed a lot of help with financial planning,” she said. “I’ve always found Financial Aid staff not only easy to work with, but pleasant to visit. That’s not something most people can say about their college financial aid offices.”
After she completes her final semester at Illinois Wesleyan, Buschman plans to enter graduate school for a degree in higher education administration. She hopes to work in student affairs diversity centers. And she will be not be burdened by crushing student debt, thanks to substantial scholarships, her campus job, and reasonable loans.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have received such generous help and sponsorships during my time here,” she said. “I absolutely loved it here. I never felt like a number, and I know that would not have been my experience at larger and less committed institutions.”