FAYETTE, IOWA (February 13, 2024) — An Upper Iowa University education will become even more affordable for ten members of each of UIU's next two incoming classes thanks to the generous support of Ralph and Erica Kauten.

Mr Kauten, a native of rural Fayette County and student at UIU in the late 60s and early 70s, has committed $500,000 to establish the "Kauten Scholars" program at UIU. The scholarship initiative aligns the charitable priorities of the Kautens with the strategic priorities of UIU. The generous contribution will be used to award annual scholarships to ten qualifying students from each of the two incoming classes. The fortunate Kauten Scholars recipients will receive up to $24,000 in tuition aid funded by this program during their four-year educational journey at UIU, provided they remain in good academic standing.

The Kauten Scholars initiative is a continuation of UIU's efforts to make a quality college degree accessible at an affordable price. In 2021, UIU announced the Peacock Promise initiative, which makes tuition free for any Iowa student who qualifies for the Iowa Tuition Grant. The Kauten Scholars program will target students who do not meet the income requirements for the Iowa Tuition Grant but who still demonstrate financial need.

"The granting of a scholarship will provide a person with encouragement and the resources to improve their capabilities allowing them to achieve their potential and improve the lives of the people they touch. With the right encouragement, support, and their personal determination, these students will make life on earth better for all of us," said Kauten.

"UIU's recent tuition reset, the Peacock Promise, merit scholarships for all incoming Fayette Campus students, and a bevy of donor-funded 'Honors and Awards' scholarships all combine to make a UIU education incredibly affordable," said UIU President Kathy Franken. "However, we know there are students who still face barriers standing in the way of attending college and the Kauten Scholars program will help to remove these obstacles."

Mr Kauten co-founded or led several start-up companies in the life sciences and biotechnology industries. He is currently the owner of Air-Lec Industries and co-owner of Mirus Bio. He has previously co-founded or served in a leadership role at Promega Corporation, PanVera Corporation, Mirus Bio, Quintessence Biosciences Inc, and Lucigen Corporation. The Kautens currently live in Madison, Wisconsin, where Ralph serves as a board member for several private and public organizations in the Madison area. However, he continues to care deeply about the rural northeast Iowa region where he grew up as the youngest of eleven children on a family farm near Fayette, Iowa.

"Strengthening and adding vitality to rural communities is important, and institutions like Upper Iowa University are a critical part of keeping places like Fayette alive," said Kauten. "Erica and I are proud to provide these scholarships, which will not only help UIU students but also assist in growing UIU's Fayette Campus."

Kauten Scholars recipients will be selected by a small committee with representation from the UIU Faculty and the admissions, financial aid, and advancement departments. Kauten Scholars will receive the UIU Merit Scholarship that they are eligible to receive based on past academic performance plus an additional Kauten Scholars tuition award, for a combined $6,000 annual aid package. Students may also be eligible for additional aid during their UIU career, such as Honors and Awards scholarships, further reducing their tuition costs.

Preference will be given to students coming to Fayette from rural-serving school districts who also demonstrate financial need but who are not eligible for UIU's Peacock Promise scholarship, which makes tuition free at the Fayette Campus. Since the creation of the Peacock Promise program, UIU has increased the number of Iowa residents attending the Fayette Campus by over 90%.

"Because of Ralph and Erica's support, the Kauten Scholars initiative will provide our Admissions team with an important recruitment tool while enhancing our ability to make a college degree attainable to students who might otherwise not be able to afford one," said Kathy Wenthold, executive director of admissions and retention. "We are excited to meet the first cohort of Kauten Scholars students during this year's recruitment season and look forward to celebrating their successes at UIU and as alumni in the years ahead."

The gift establishing the Kauten Scholars initiative is not the first time the Kautens have lent their support to UIU and area students. In 2012, Ralph and Erica established the Ralph Kauten Endowed Scholarship at UIU, which has gone on to support six West Central and North Fayette-Valley graduates who went on to attend Upper Iowa. Nearly $20,000 has been awarded from this endowed scholarship during this time and produced UIU alumni who are now enjoying careers spanning from law to teaching.

"I understand the value of investing in educational opportunities that can help to change lives," said Kauten. "This has been true for me as a prior UIU endowed scholar and with our 2012 endowed scholarship program at UIU. We are happy to hopefully make an even larger impact with the Kauten Scholars program."

To learn more about the Kauten Scholars program, or to apply, visit uiu.edu/KautenScholars.

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