Driving down the street, you may come across a Ball State license plate, but there is more to those plates than Charlie Cardinal's head.

The Alumni Legacy Scholarship program selects either incoming freshmen or enrolled students who are children or grandchildren of members of the Alumni Association to give a one-time scholarship award to help supplement their academic career.

Lori Corvino, the senior director of alumni engagement for stewardship and special events, said the purpose of the legacy scholarship program is to continue a family’s legacy of experience and loyalty to Ball State.

The scholarship program is 100 percent funded through the sales of Ball State license plates. Because of this, the funding amount of each scholarship award is dependent on the amount received from license plate sales.

Corvino said buying a Ball State license plate is both high-impact and low-commitment.

“It’s a really easy way to support Ball State University and the future of Ball State University and impact the life of a young person,” Corvino said.

Recipients of the scholarship are chosen by whether or not they are a full- time undergraduate student and have a parent or grandparent as an alumnus. The student also must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, according to the application.

Corvino said each year the association sees around 250-350 applicants. This year, the association is looking to award 75 scholarships and 100 next year as a part of the centennial celebration. She said the association typically gives out 50 awards of $2,500 each year.

The application also says a committee from the Alumni Council meets to review the applications and select recipients for the scholarship.

“The importance of a parent or grandparent or legal guardian to just share the experiences that have shaped and frame their life and their life choices and their professional paths,” Corvino said. “The legacies are really long, and that means that the stories, and more importantly, the impact educationally and personally had a really positive impact on that alumni’s life.”

Laura Cain, a member of the alumni executive committee and the chair of the legacy scholarship, said the scholarship is a good way to foster relations between alumni and students. 

“I hope that someday the legacy scholarship encourages those same students who are recipients to pay it forward in a way,” Cain said. “I think they’re very proud to be recipients. I hope that we’re also showing that alumni pride and giving back to our university, and in this case, giving back to young people.”

Austin Zimmer, a freshman finance major, is a recipient of the scholarship. His grandma is an alumna of Ball State. Zimmer said the scholarship allowed him to have financial freedom so he could focus more on his studies.

“I think it’s a good opportunity,” Zimmer said. “There’s thousands of alumni, and that’s an easy way for them to be able to give up just by simply buying a license plate.”

To date, over $2 million in scholarships have been awarded, with $25 of the $40 cost from each plate going toward the scholarship. On average, $180,000 are used for scholarships from the license plate sales annually.

Contact Andrew Harp with comments at adharp@bsu.edu.