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KU offers full-ride scholarship to Topeka high-schooler blogging on college choice for NY Times


We told you last month about Leobardo Espinoza Jr., a high-school senior in Topeka who's preparing to be a first-generation college student and blogging about his school choice for the New York Times. At that time, he'd just written that he had visited KU, but he had applied to a bunch of other schools and wondered if he might like to go somewhere farther away.

Well, turns out KU has introduced a $40,000 wrinkle to his story.

Today, Espinoza has another blog post telling the story of how two KU representatives came to his high school and offered him a four-year, full-ride scholarship as he stood at the front of a room full of classmates.

One official told him folks at KU had been reading his blog entries, looked him dead in the eye and said, "We want you at the University of Kansas," he writes. Then Espinoza looked inside the envelope handed to him to see an offer for a four-year scholarship that would pay for all of his tuition and fees, plus an allowance for books.

That would be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $40,000 over the course of four years, depending on what happens with tuition rates this summer. (See KU's cost calculator here.)

But here's the thing: Espinoza's still not sure about going to KU. He sounds genuinely grateful about the offer, but he says he's always considered KU a "fallback school." According to a chart at the bottom of the entry, he's waiting to hear back about applications to Yale, Stanford, Brown, Washington-St. Louis and others.

All in all, I'd suggest giving the entry a read, as it lays his thought process bare in a way that's pretty compelling, even touching. He's pretty obviously conflicted about this. No matter how you feel about the fact he's not jumping on an offer of free tuition for four years at KU, you have to hand it to him for being so transparent about his decision and taking his future so seriously.

I'll be following along to see what happens.

I'm afraid I can't offer you $40,000 if you submit a KU news tip to merickson@ljworld.com, but I will be very appreciative, I promise.


Roger Tarbutton 5 years, 3 months ago

If its free its not worth as much syndrome. KU should have made him jump thru all the same hoops for a scholarship as everyone else and it may not have embarressed itself

merickson 5 years, 3 months ago

Hey irtnog, thanks for commenting. But I have to disagree with you on the idea that KU's offer made Espinoza less likely to go there, at least if you take his words at face value. If you read the entry, you'll see he makes it pretty clear that this offer made him more likely to consider KU, not less likely. This just made him more conflicted, because he already had other schools at the top of his list, he writes.



Bursting 5 years, 3 months ago

Funny, he can write a blog and get 40k. But kids that actually do something for KU (such as athletic walk-ons) get ZERO. Now that's ridiculous.

John Hamm 5 years, 3 months ago

He didn't jump at an offer like that. Let him walk.

fiddleback 5 years, 3 months ago

Um, could somebody post a link or other reminder of just what this kid achieved to be receiving this kind of offer??

They don't even offer a deal this sweet to in-state National Merit Scholars (full ride for tuition), and they eliminated that deal for out-of-state National Merit Scholars years back...

Plus, even if you assume Leobardo has some combination of impressive test scores, G.P.A, and resume, this sort of special deal seems like the perfect way to make all his non-famous high-achieving peers scoff and spit at KU's naked pandering, making this offer in front of his classmates no less.

For the kid's sake, I hope somebody pulls him aside and forces into his surely swollen head a dim inkling of what student debt from an Ivy League undergrad would look like. He needs to take this deal and save his family's dough for grad school.

For KU's sake, I hope they get a clue about how openly desperate and unfair this comes across to, I don't know, how about EVERY OTHER HIGH-ACHIEVING H.S. SENIOR IN KANSAS...

Brad Avery 5 years, 3 months ago

Agreed. As a KU alum, this comes across as unvarnished favoritism, and based on what? Many of our kids are still paying off their college loans, and this young man acts as though he is being offered chump change with an offer to attend KU for free. Best of luck to him, but wherever he goes, perhaps he will learn something about the art of at least appearing grateful for an opportunity most of us would be elated to receive.

webmocker 5 years, 3 months ago


From the young man in question: "Words can’t describe how thankful I am to have a fallback school where I am guaranteed at least four years of no loans . . ."

What about that does not at least appear grateful?

fiddleback 5 years, 3 months ago

Well, it seems that "fallback" kind of belies the gratitude in several readers' estimation. If you don't agree, try translating it from an academic to a romantic context:

"Words can’t describe how thankful I am to have a less attractive backup date to the dance where I am guaranteed at least four hours of half-heartedly making out with her as if she were my first choice..."

Bursting 5 years, 3 months ago

I would say the word "fallback" school, is disrescpectful enough to be considered ungrateful...

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 3 months ago

"Words can’t describe how thankful I am to have a fallback school where I am guaranteed at least four years of no loans (assuming I can come up with housing and food costs, which I think I can).

After reading his blog I don't think I like this young man very much. He will have the rest of his life to see the rest of the world after he finishes college. Obviously, he wants to get out of Kansas, and I think that his worry is that others will see KU as inferior.

They did not create this scholarship for his and I wonder what he would have done if they had said, well, since you don't want it, we will offer it to someone else? Did the fact that the blog was in the NY Times have anything to do with the decision?

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 3 months ago

I have done research and cannot find out anything about the David M. Wall Scholarship. Can you tell us anything about it?


merickson 5 years, 3 months ago

I'll look into that and see what I can find. Thanks.


Jack Martin 5 years, 3 months ago

Per the donor’s wishes, the David M. Wall Scholarship is awarded to graduates of Topeka High School who demonstrate both academic achievement and financial need and who will seek a degree in the KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It is a four-year renewable scholarship that covers tuition, fees and books. Recipients are selected by a committee appointed by the Dean of the College.

fiddleback 5 years, 3 months ago

Okay, so do students from Topeka High have to apply for this scholarship separately from their main admissions application? The real question of fairness depends upon whether there is a separate application process and the pretense of an objective competition. If the committee just plucks a winner from the Topeka High applicants to KU, then they could be more easily accused of favoritism towards this very high-profile student.

fiddleback 5 years, 3 months ago

Sure, use the same superficial judgements as the naive kiddos about to blow their parents' fortunes...nevermind that these schools you reflexively think so highly of put most of their money into their graduate programs....

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/19/weekinreview/19steinberg.html http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/09/opinion/colleges-and-elitism.html http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/13/opinion/at-elite-colleges-too-much-hubris.html

greenis 5 years, 3 months ago

KU does offer that same full scholarship to a very select group of students-it's called the Perfect Achivement Scholarship and is awarded to any student who scores a (perfect) 36 on the ACT or 2400 on the SAT. I have a feeling that this kid may change his mind after he sees the amount of financial aid those big-name schools give him compared to the total cost of attending them.The chance to graduate debt free from a top 50 public university compared to graduating $100000 or so in debt-if he's half as bright as his hype suggests, it seems like an easy decision. Save the big name schols(and debt) for grad school and enjoy 4 free years of being a Jayhawk. But if KU really wants to seal the deal, they should prbably give him a ticket to a home game!

merickson 5 years, 3 months ago

Hey greenis,

Thanks for the comment. But KU actually no longer offers that Perfect Achievement Scholarship; it went away when the new system of four-year renewable scholarships went into place this past fall:

The top scholarship under the new system is for National Merit/Achievement/Hispanic Scholar finalists. That's worth $10,000 per year, roughly equivalent to what KU offered Espinoza, according to his blog post. KU's current in-state scholarship offerings are here:




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