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Saint Louis University 2024 Scholarship Dinner Highlights Importance of Donor Support

Donor support allowed 43% of Saint Louis University undergraduate students to graduate without student loan debt last year — but as the cost of higher education rises, the need for scholarships is greater than ever.

Students enjoy SLU's 2024 scholarship dinner. Photo by Megan Favignano Mansouri. Launch SlideshowStudents enjoy SLU's 2024 scholarship dinner. Photo by Megan Favignano Mansouri.

As more than 350 people gathered on April 11 to celebrate Saint Louis University students and the donors who made their scholarships possible, Saint Louis University President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., said that the “all-in” costs at some private American colleges and universities are now at or near $100,000 a year. 

Students who graduate from SLU become servant leaders who transform the communities in which they live and work, he said. However, getting to that point is expensive and takes support, as students receive a first-rate education in a rigorous academic environment.

“Many of the students studying at this University today would not be here if they did not get the generous awards that we are able to provide for them,” Pestello said.

President Pestello talks with dinner attendees.

Among them is School of Science and Engineering senior Jake Little, who told attendees of the 2024 Scholarship Dinner that SLU has offered him life-changing opportunities and experiences that would not have happened without scholarships.

Under Jenna Gorlewicz, Ph.D., Little works on technology for blind hockey players as an undergraduate research assistant in the Collaborative Haptics, Robotics and Mechatronics lab, also known as the CHROME Lab. He has also collaborated with Sridhar Condoor, Ph.D., and Tim R. Randolph, Ph.D., on methods to detect anemia in low-resource regions, presenting the work at the annual Global Health Technologies Design Competition.

None of it would have been possible without support, though. Little stopped playing baseball his junior year, which meant that he no longer had an athletic scholarship. 

“Your support that has helped so many other SLU students has given me the opportunity to not only find work I truly believe in but also to be involved wholeheartedly in it,” Little told donors.

The largest and most successful fundraising campaign in Saint Louis University history — Accelerating Excellence — recently allowed SLU to create 416 new student scholarships.

This fiscal year alone, donors contributed $7.2 million to support Saint Louis University students.    SLU has awarded $16.3 million to 3,785 students through specific donor-funded scholarships.  

With enrollment at an all-time high, SLU’s average financial aid award amount for freshmen is $45,343, and 99% of all first-year students received some form of financial assistance. 

Little, who will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, told donors he plans to pursue a master’s degree at SLU and to continue work in the CHROME lab, where he will have the opportunity to continue working with the blind ice hockey community.

“Had it not been for donors like you, I would not have been able to continue my education at SLU or contribute to the research that I have grown to love,” Little said.