Indiana State University Newsroom

Efforts under way to expand scholarships for aviation students

August 11, 2010

Indiana State University's College of Technology and the ISU Foundation are working with an aviation technology graduate and two retired professors to make students' dreams to become pilots more affordable.

Between 40 and 50 students complete professional aviation flight technology degrees each year at Indiana State and go on to careers with passenger airlines, air charter and air freight companies.

But as one of the most hands-on programs in a university known for real world learning - and given the expense of equipment and fuel - it is one of Indiana State's more costly programs. Students can expect to rack up $45,000 in flight fees over four years. While it is a good long term investment, graduates often start out working for smaller regional air carriers before moving on to national "legacy" airlines and higher pay, said Harry Minniear, assistant professor and chairperson of the aviation technology department.

Dennis Eiler, a 1979 ISU graduate and owner of Terre Haute-based Eiler Aviation Consultants, an aviation consulting firm that also sells aircraft, has joined forces with Minniear and former department chairs Paul Burns and Ivan Bates to provide new scholarships for aviation technology majors.

Eiler worked nights at United Parcel Service to put himself through ISU. After receiving a single $1,000 scholarship, he gained renewed motivation to complete his degree.

"Financial assistance is important but a scholarship can also help encourage students to persevere and that encouragement is also important," Eiler said. Yet scholarships specifically targeting students pursuing a professional pilot career are limited.

"You have to search hard to find the scholarships that are out there," he said.

New scholarships offered through the ISU Foundation would be in addition to an existing scholarship fund established about 10 years ago by the Wabash Valley Pilots Association.

"I've been fortunate to make a good living in my chosen field and part of that goes back to my education at ISU. I'd like to see my fellow ISU aviation alumni get involved and allow multiple students to benefit from the success that many of us have had in our chosen career field," he said.

Cost has long prevented some students from completing the program, said Burns, professor of aerospace technology from 1979 - 1994 and chair of the department from 1985-90.

"I happened to hit at a good time as chair. We were the largest department in the School of Technology but we always thought the expense of the program was a major obstacle for many families and students. It was always in the back of our minds that somehow we could assist them and provide with additional income that might lighten the burden a little bit," Burns said.

With the ISU Foundation in the midst of its $85 million March On! comprehensive fundraising campaign, and more alumni recognizing the need to help support their alma mater, the time may be ripe for that longstanding goal to become a reality, said Minniear.

"We are grateful to the Wabash Valley Pilots Association and all they do to help meet students' financial needs and we would welcome additional scholarships to help students complete their degrees," he said.

For more information about the effort to expand ISU aviation scholarships in one of the university's programs of state and regional distinction, contact Erick Motycka, director of development operations with the ISU Foundation, at 812-237-8983 or

For more information about the ISU Foundation and the March On! Campaign, visit or

Contact: Eric Motycka, director of development operations, Indiana State University Foundation, 812-237-8983 or

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or