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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19, 2010

ISAC Announces Byrd Honors Scholars
Illinois recognizes 299 new honorees at 133 high schools statewide

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) has announced the Illinois 2009-10 Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholars.  This year’s honorees include 1,403 students selected from across the state, including 299 new Byrd Scholars that are eligible to receive a $1,500 college scholarship for each of four years.

The Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholars Program 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. Senator Robert C. Byrd, the only person ever to earn an undergraduate and law degree while serving in Congress.  Byrd was inspired to create the merit-based federal scholarship after seeing bright, hard-working students from the West Virginia hills who could not afford college.  In 1969, 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 makes awards to more than 25,000 students annually.

“The Illinois Student Assistance Commission salutes our Byrd Honors Scholars, their families and teachers for this outstanding achievement.  These are the best of the best,” said Andrew Davis, ISAC Executive Director.  “Their hard work and diligence will serve these scholars well as they continue their education in college.”

Awardees are selected by ISAC based on academic data from the end of the junior year, plus 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.

For new candidates from the state of Illinois, the student must at minimum rank in the top two percent of the high school class during junior year; score 31 or above on the ACT, 1360 or above on the SAT, or the equivalent on the Prairie State Achievement Exam; and have a cumulative GPA of 3.8 or higher on a 4.0 scale (or its equivalent).

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.  This year, 1,104 Illinois students renewed the scholarship.

Davis urges every Illinois high school student to visit ISAC’s Web site, collegezone.com, for 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.

A complete list of new Byrd Scholarship recipients by county and high school may be found at www.collegezone.com/407_12978.htm.

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission provides students of all ages and backgrounds with the resources and support to obtain financial aid for higher education. A state agency, ISAC has paved the path to post-secondary education with innovative programs for over 50 years. The commission continued its mission to make college accessible and affordable for Illinois students by administering over 183,000 grants and scholarships totaling over $430 million in FY2009 alone. 

The Commission provides educational funding with student loans and via numerous programs such as the Monetary Award Program (MAP), the Illinois Veteran Grant and College Illinois!® 529 Prepaid Tuition Program. Students and families have free access to a wealth of financial aid and college planning information at ISAC’s family of Web sites available at www.KnowHow2GOIllinois.org.



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