BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Access to higher education has been an often-discussed topic for the past few years, but Western Kentucky University has taken it upon itself to tackle the issue.

What You Need To Know

  • WKU launches Hilltopper Guarantee

  • Qualifying freshmen from 2021-2022 school year won't pay tuition

  • WKU president hopes to spark rise in enrollment

  • University is largest in KY to offer tuition guarantee

The university will offer free tuition to any incoming freshmen that are eligible for the Pell grant and has a 3.0 cumulative high school GPA. After making changes to its scholarship program in 2019, the university saw a record number of incoming freshmen. 

The university calls the initiative the Hilltopper Guarantee, and President Timothy Caboni hopes it will spark a rise in enrollment. 

“Those young people who may not have the money to afford to come to WKU but are succeeding in high school with a 3.0 or above GPA, now they don’t have to worry about that. All they have to do is perform in high school, get that 3.0, and WKU is in their future,” said Caboni in the Thursday afternoon press conference. 

The program does not have a cut-off limit for the number of students that can be served. Students will automatically become eligible once they apply for the university and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Last year, the university invested more than $5 million into its new scholarship program, allocating some of the money to the Hilltopper Guarantee initiative, but the majority of the funding came from the community, which raised more than $40 million over the past three years.

“Supporters, alumni, friends of WKU have stepped up in the past three years for our opportunity fund built to help any young person who comes here, to the university has the full WKU experience,” said Caboni. 

While long term costs haven't been configured, Caboni hopes there will be a rise in the retention rate, keeping Kentucky dollars in Kentucky. “There are 5000 plus open jobs here in Bowling Green and in the region and so the more students we can produce with bachelors degrees who can help fill those positions, the more likely we are to retain and to grow those local companies, so it lifts just not that individuals life but it helps grow and elevate the company’s in our region,” said Caboni. 

Western Kentucky University is the largest institution in the Commonwealth to offer a tuition guarantee. The program will go into effect in the 2021-2022 school year.