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May 26, 2009

ISAC Announces Byrd Honors Scholars
Illinois recognizes 292 new honorees at 131 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 1,304 students selected from across the state, including 292 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. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the only person ever to earn an undergrad 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 honors more than 25,000 students annually.

“The Illinois Student Assistance Commission salutes our Byrd Honors Scholars, their families and teachers for this outstanding achievement,” 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, 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.

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.

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   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 more than 50 years. Last year alone, ISAC continued its mission to make college accessible and affordable for Illinois students by issuing over 186,000 grants and scholarships totaling nearly $431 million. 

The Commission provides educational funding with student loans, as a loan guarantor and via numerous public programs such as the successful Monetary Award Program (MAP), the Illinois Veteran Grant and College Illinois!sm the Commission’s groundbreaking 529 prepaid college tuition program. Students and families have free access to a wealth of financial aid and college planning information at ISAC’s family of websites available at www.knowhow2GOIllinois.org.


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