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Cover Story

Can we afford to let their dreams die?

Reported by Tim Cigelske, Comm ’04 | Illustrations by Sean McCabe

Layoffs. Foreclosures. Retirement savings up in smoke. In these tough economic times, paying for college has become more difficult than ever. Yet, even as household budgets suffer, families stand firmly behind their students’ dream to go to college. Marquette stands behind them, too. Virtually every student who comes to Marquette has a story to tell about how they got here. We’re used to hearing them they’re great, filled with heaps of family pride, commitment to Catholic education, belief in becoming the best they can be. But now students question whether they can come here or stay here without scholarship assistance. In the following pages meet three students who wanted you to hear their stories, three students who say scholarships made their dreams come true.

Hollie Lippert
College: Business Administration
Double Major: Accounting and Business Economics, Junior
Burke Scholarship Recipient

Hollie Lippert is a completely different person today.

Lippert grew up in Pittsville, Wis. Two square miles with about 800 people. One gas station. No stop lights. Lippert was involved in almost everything in high school. She played three sports, taught confirmation classes and coached youth athletic teams. Hoping to continue her super-charged schedule at Marquette, she applied for a scholarship that practically embeds students in service in nonprofit and public sectors, with activities sprinkled throughout the city. Lippert was one of 20 students interviewed from the 200 applicants to the Burke Scholarship Program.

She was anxious about coming to a school more than 10 times the size of her hometown. “I remember coming here and not being sure I would do well,” she says.

But from the moment she arrived on campus, Lippert dove into service opportunities that connected her with others. “I first became involved with Campus Kitchen, a program that makes meals for those in the community in need. Then I taught English to adults who want to study for their GED. Now I tutor middle school students at a school on Milwaukee’s South Side,” she says. 

In helping others, her anxiety faded. All the facets of Lippert’s personality and who she wants to be have come together at Marquette. “Now I believe in myself,” she says.

Justice “I remember the experience of delivering meals to a shelter for abused women. It was real. It was in your face.”

Faith “Finding a place where faith is an open component was important to me.”

Service “I don’t think I would ever have been able to do what I’ve done if I didn’t come to Marquette or hadn’t been a Burke Scholar.”

Scholarship “To have the full tuition paid is such a relief. If I didn’t get the scholarship, I probably would have gone elsewhere.”

City life “I really like the chance to be right in the heart of the city.”

The Burke Scholars Program was created by the late Richard Burke, Bus Ad '56, Marquette trustee emeritus and founder and former CEO of Trek Bicycle, to provide four-year full-tuition scholarships to students who are committed to service. Burke Scholars must maintain a 3.0 GPA and volunteer at least 300 hours of meaningful service every academic year.

Luke Beehner
College: Engineering
Major: Biomedical Engineering, Senior
Markos Foundation Scholarship Recipient

Luke Beehner’s family tree has deep Marquette roots.

His parents graduated from Marquette. Fifteen members of his extended family attended this university. Four of his older siblings called campus home before pursuing careers in law, medicine, public service and stand-up comedy.

It almost seemed destined that this youngest of seven children would follow the path of so many other Beehners, who came from Omaha to Milwaukee and Marquette. But it almost didn’t work out like that.

When Beehner was in sixth grade, his father died unexpectedly of a heart attack.

“It was a hard time,” he remembers. “My mom had to raise all of us on her own.”

Supported by financial aid, Beehner has kept his family tradition on track. He enrolled in the College of Engineering coincidentally the same college his father attended. His mom believes her son is following in his dad’s footsteps.

Now a biomedical engineering senior, Beehner recently completed Marquette’s Co-op Program, which alternates employment experience with semesters of on-campus study. The co-op experience at Baxter Healthcare helped pay some of his college expenses. But even with the co-op and additional summer jobs, he wouldn’t have made it without scholarship aid and other financial aid. He plans to use his Marquette education as a launching pad for his next goal: dental school.

Markos Scholarship Fund was established in 2004 by Dennis and Carol Markos to provide scholarship support to students with financial need.

Karina Moreno
College: Business Administration
Major: Finance, Senior
Urban Scholarship Recipient

Karina Moreno knows exactly where she wants to go.

She graduated from Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, a college preparatory school serving children on the low-income west side. Cristo Rey students attend school four days a week and work one day a week to pay their tuition, giving them exposure to the working world and a personal investment in their education. Moreno thrived in the program, became valedictorian of her class and took a step no one in her family had taken before she went to college.

Financial aid was crucial for Moreno, whose single mother couldn’t pay for college. She was awarded a scholarship through Marquette’s Urban Scholars Program. “The financial aid was a major player in selecting the school I would attend,” Moreno says. “Without those who have believed in me enough to fund my education, I would not have been able to get this far.”

Moreno has seized every opportunity. The senior finance major works 20 hours a week at Robert W. Baird & Co. in the risk management department, mentored by Mary Ellen Stanek, Arts ’78, the managing director and director of asset management for Baird and chair of Marquette’s Board of Trustees.

On campus, Moreno is just as much of a hands-on learner. She’s part of Marquette’s Applied Investment Management program, a team of finance students that invests a portion of the university’s endowment. She volunteers at the Latino Community Center and helps international students adjust to American life as an ambassador in Marquette’s Global Village residential community.

“One of the pillars of the Jesuit foundation,” she says, “is giving back to others.”

Urban Scholars Program The now 10 full-tuition Urban Scholarships are funded in part through the generosity of several benefactors and designated for graduates of Chicago's Cristo Rey High School, members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukke and graduates of Milwaukee-area high schools.

How does scholarship aid fit into a financial aid package?

Students who receive assistance in affording tuition benefit from a mix of scholarship aid, grants, loans and student employment. The package helps bridge the gap between what students and their families can afford to pay and the cost of attending a university.

Q  How many Marquette undergraduates receive aid?

Eighty-five percent of our full-time undergraduates receive some type of financial assistance. Even with the aid we provide, many students have unmet financial need. The average unmet financial need for a freshman this year is $6,089, which families meet through private loans, second jobs and other means. Long term, this amount of unmet need can affect a student’s ability to attend Marquette.

Q Is student debt affecting the choices students have post graduation?

Yes. Many students take on loans as part of a complete financial aid package. The average debt for undergraduate students who graduated in 2007-08 was about $30,000. Loan repayments can mean that these graduates must delay graduate school or set aside public service and nonprofit careers as viable options.

Q How much total does Marquette award in financial assistance each year?

In 2007-08, scholarship aid and grants for all students including federal and state support and scholarship aid from private external sources as well as Marquette exceeded $94 million.

Q Is Marquette changing scholarship aid in light of the tough economic situation?

President Robert Wild, S.J., says that fulfilling the promise to retain current students through graduation is the university’s first and foremost priority. University leadership is committed to working with students and families facing financial difficulties on solutions that make continued enrollment possible. In response to the increased stress felt by our families, the university raised the amount it commits to the financial aid budget by $4 million. Additionally, the university is working to secure more scholarship aid support for students who are struggling financially to remain at Marquette. Initial responses to this effort included a generous $250,000 gift from a family foundation to help 55 students continue their education this spring semester.

Financial need of Marquette undergraduate students

$38,776: Average Marquette undergraduate tuition, room and board and fees for 2009-10

25%: A quarter of Marquette students are the first in their families to go to college. On average families of these students can afford less than one-third of what it costs to attend Marquette. Scholarship aid helps ensure that these talented students continue to have access to Marquette.

$30,563: Average debt load of a graduating senior

Even after personal and family contributions, scholarships and grants, the unmet financial need is considerable. Marquette simply does not have enough funds to meet what students are fully qualified to receive in aid. Costs not covered by family contribution, federal grants and private scholarships must be made up through loans.


Comment by Matt Kelly, Arts '95 at May 17 2009 02:20 am
I was pleasantly surprised to see that 85% of students at Marquette receive some form of financial aid. I was one of those students. But I was dismayed to see that an average loan burden at graduation is $30,000. That seems like an unfair burden. More than twice my loan burden upon graduating 14 years ago. If you added the room and board I received for the years I worked as a resident assistant, it would still be twice as much loan burden. Is the education twice as good? The fees we charge for tuition, etc, have skyrocketed, but that's not the same.

Are we that much better? Or is higher ed simply rapacious?

And I guess the question is: Would it be better to admit less financial aid students and lower their unmet need? There are other, cheaper options for students that we couldn't afford to admit. Would it be more ethical to only take on students we can take care of?
Comment by Ashley Podzius at Oct 28 2009 03:10 pm
I think Marquette would be able to help out more students if it spent it's funds more wisely. I don't think it's necessary to resod the campus every year...
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