MESA, Ariz.—There was a time when Lesly Herrera, 18, dreamed of going to college out of state. As the first member of her family to pursue a bachelor’s degree, she knew she wanted a school that offered small class sizes and personal attention, but she also wanted the full college experience—living on campus and the opportunity to make friends with people from a wide variety of backgrounds. She had her eye on a number of small, private, religious schools across the country, places like Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa.
“I didn’t apply to ASU,” she says of Tempe-based Arizona State University, the behemoth public university just eight miles down the road from her Mesa high school. “It’s just too big.”
In the end, though, Herrera stayed even closer to home. Last fall, she enrolled as a psychology major in the very first freshman class—a small group of only 70 students—at Benedictine University‘s new branch campus in downtown Mesa. A $10,000 annual scholarship through the city’s nascent Mesa Educates U initiative ultimately sealed the deal.
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