Wichita Wichita State University has begun an aggressive campaign to stop the city's brightest high school students from leaving Wichita to attend other colleges.
The Dean's Scholars Program offers National Merit Scholars and other students with high grade-point averages more than $10,000 each in scholarships for their freshman year, along with other incentives, such as room and board and free basketball tickets.
The wooing began in earnest Monday night, when the school threw a dinner for 40 of Wichita's best students.
Christine Schneikart-Luebbe, the dean of enrollment services, used the dinner to make her pitch to the students and their parents. She was helped by Wichita State faculty, staff and other students, who talked about the advantages of staying in their hometown for college.
Schneikart-Luebbe hatched the idea last year, after she grew tired of hearing Wichita students say they wanted out of the city and they planned to take their brains and money to another university.
It began with one student, Ryan Schafer, a senior last year at Kapaun Mount Carmel High School. He turned down her first request to attend the university, so Schneikart-Luebbe decided to recruit Schafer the way a coach would recruit a star athlete.
She took Schafer to lunch and Wichita State events; she offered Schafer a semester free and a free college dorm for a year.
Schafer, who originally had no plans to stay in Wichita, couldn't pass up the deal and is enrolled at Wichita State for the current semester.
"I have to say, she sold it all really, really well," he said.
After that success, Schneikart-Luebbe decided it was time to go after more students with the same aggressive campaign.
That started Monday night with the dinner, where Schneikart-Luebbe told prospective students she had secured full-ride scholarships for each of them during their freshman year, including free room and board at the Fairmount Towers. She also gave them men's basketball tickets and one free "test-drive" course next spring.
Now that she has their attention, Schneikart-Luebbe said she plans to meet with each student monthly to persuade them to come to Wichita State.
Bill Cook said his daughter, Emily, had been leaning toward Kansas State University, but the scholarship "got her attention."
"I'm going to have to think about it," said Emily Cook, a senior at Kapaun. "We weren't expecting anything like that. It's pretty impressive."