DEERFIELD, IL – The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) has announced the Illinois 2007-08 Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholars. This year’s honorees include 1,150 students selected from across the state, including 288 new scholars and 862 renewal scholars.
Each student will receive a $1,500 college scholarship, totaling $1.72 million for Illinois students.
The Byrd Honors Scholarship is a federally-funded, state-administered scholarship program designed to recognize high school seniors who have exceptional grades and show promise of continued academic excellence.
The program was created in 1985 by U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D - WVA), who earned an undergrad and law degree while serving in Congress. Byrd was inspired to create the merit-based federal scholarship after seeing intelligent, hard-working students from the hills of West Virginia who were unable to afford college. In the 1960s, Byrd created a program to give every high school valedictorian in West Virginia a savings bond. That idea grew into the Byrd Honors Scholarship program which awarded $40 million to 27,114 students throughout the nation last year.
“The Illinois Student Assistance Commission is very proud of these Byrd scholars,” said Andy Davis, ISAC Executive Director. “We salute them for their hard work and academic achievement.”
Awardees are selected by ISAC based on performance-based academic data from the end of the junior year, and ACT, SAT or Prairie State Achievement Exam scores. To ensure geographic balance, winners are chosen from 15 Illinois districts and on an at-large basis. There is no application to complete for the Byrd Honors Scholarship Program. Students are automatically considered when their high school guidance counselor submits information to ISAC for the selection process.
Initially, the Byrd Honors Scholarship was a one-time award, but since 1993, each winner could renew the scholarship annually for three more years. Once a student has been named a Byrd Honors Scholar, he or she may renew the award by maintaining satisfactory academic progress and full-time enrollment, and not defaulting on any student loans.
Davis also urged every Illinois high school student to visit ISAC’s website (www.collegezone.com) for more information about the many college financial assistance programs available. The innovative site also offers career counseling services, a planning timeline, virtual campus tours and online applications.
Created in 1957, ISAC is the state’s central provider of college aid. The agency oversees the successful Monetary Award Program (MAP), as well as the Illinois Veteran Grant program and service-related programs to encourage more students to pursue careers in teaching or nursing. Last year, ISAC issued 185,000 grants totaling $400 million. Its 529 prepaid tuition program – College Illinois! – has allowed Illinois families to prepay more than $1 billion in tuition and fees.