Having trouble with that pesky town-gown relationship? or maybe your school has a reputation for racial intolerance. Why not solve the problems by offering more scholarships to local students? That’s apparently a popular tactic at a number of private colleges across America. According to an Associated Press article by Eric Gorski in the Washington Post:

Hoping to portray themselves as more affordable and all-around better neighbors, private colleges from Appalachia to Boston are sweetening financial aid packages for students from their own backyards.

The latest and most prestigious example is Northwestern University. Northwestern’s “Good Neighbor, Great University” scholarships will be awarded starting in fall 2011 to about 100 incoming freshman who graduated from high schools in Evanston, Ill., home to Northwestern’s main campus, and Chicago, site of its medical school.

And it’s apparently not a small scholarship, either. Unlike the complicated financial aid situation regular Northwestern students face, for the Good Neighbor, Great University scholars:

Students whose families show financial need – there is no income cut-off – will be eligible for scholarships replacing loans and payments from work-study. The majority of students who qualify will receive enough aid to fully cover the cost of Northwestern’s $40,223 annual tuition and fees.

The university created the program at the recommendation of a task force looking into racial problems at the school. The lack of diversity became particularly evident after two students attended a Northwestern Halloween party in blackface last year.

In 2007 Northwestern’s freshman class was only four and a half percent black. The school is half an hour from Chicago, a city where almost 35 percent of the population is black.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer