33 Bishop Ward High School students were each granted a full-tuition scholarship to Avila University through a recent partnership with KC Scholars, which will provide full-tuition scholarships to 800 students over the next eight years. “The atmosphere was one of excitement and celebration! Smiles, happy tears, and “can you believe this?” energy and laughter. Everything you want from an event designed to impart good news to future Eagles,” said Vice President of Enrollment Management, Josh Parisse.
“It was a little bit of disbelief. These kids previously weren’t selected, so we had to keep saying it over and over again to them. Then, it finally sunk in. Once they believed it and believed they were going to get to go to college, they were very excited,” said Bishop Ward High School Academic Dean Emily Saatcioglu, Ph.D.
What used to be the land of opportunity has become an inaccessible pipe dream for many young Americans due to the rising cost of education, inflation, and state funding cuts. Students graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, often with exorbitant interest fees. Hard work just doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s not enough to be born in America–everyone doesn’t have the same opportunities. Thankfully, organizations like KC Scholars and Avila, with the financial assistance of the university’s donors, are trying to create a more equitable system.
“This partnership means everything. Young kids are well aware of the fact that college debt isn’t a good idea. Many have had financial hardships. College isn’t smart or appealing if it means an additional financial burden. Our students are looking for opportunities that are affordable and reasonable. With KC Scholars, Avila becomes possible. It previously wasn’t,” said Saatcioglu.
“These amazing students come from first-generation households of low and modest incomes, many of which would likely assume a private liberal arts education was out of reach financially. By providing this incredible support in scholarship dollars, what was once considered a long shot is now a reality. Access and affordability are inseparable dance partners, and you know what they say? It takes two to tango! With affordability now possible through this partnership with KC Scholars, the added access makes for a beautiful two-step,” said Parisse.
These 33 students will now have the opportunity to call Avila home. Many grads say they chose Avila for the small-community atmosphere, the campus vibe, and the people. It provides the college experience without the feel of a typical large, urban campus.
“Our [Bishop Ward] students love Kansas City. It’s home and a place they want to call home. They are very passionate about giving back to their community. Family is also important to our students. They want to be close to home–close to family,” said Saatcioglu.
“Avila is a Catholic school. Our students, even the ones who aren’t Catholic, enjoy, thrive in, and appreciate that environment. Avila feels like a good next step. It feels a lot like this home [Bishop Ward]. Students are interested in continuing to practice their faith and want to feel comfortable doing that.”
“I have always wondered and wanted Avila to be on the KC Scholars list for our kids. I was excited when they decided to join. I think the President, Jim Burkee, Ph.D., is a lot like me. If a kid wants to go to college, they should be able to go. Money shouldn’t be a barrier. Our kids put in a lot of time and effort to apply. They want to go to college. He recognized that these kids have the ability and desire, and they should be able to go,” said Saatcioglu.
“At Avila, we are our students. Avila significantly improves as we bring different talents, perspectives, passions, and interests into our community. I can’t wait to see how these Eagles fly,” said Parisse.
Being the university of access for Kansas City means being the place that everyone can call home. Students feel connected and included the moment they step onto campus. It’s more than a place; it’s a family.