NEODESHA, Kansas — Three hundred middle and high schoolers filed into their school auditorium last week in the small, southeast Kansas town of Neodesha, uncertain why they’d been called there.
They left cheering and hugging. Some of the older students were teary-eyed.
College tuition and fees need no longer hold back graduates of this manufacturing community, about halfway between Wichita, Kansas, and Joplin, Missouri. A wealthy donor hoping to turn around the fortunes of his dwindling hometown — population 2,300 — will foot those costs for the next 25 years, and possibly decades beyond that.