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Last modified: Thursday, August 28, 2008

Quadruplets enter IU courtesy of 21st Century Covenant Scholars Program

Torline quads look forward to independence, life in Bloomington

Aug. 28, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- It's hard enough to put one kid through college these days. Cheryl and Joe Torline of Madison, Ind., had to figure out a way to send quadruplets to college this fall -- simultaneously -- on the heels of their eldest daughter, Amber, completing her college education at Purdue in 2005.

"We have been asked since they were infants how we were going to send them to college," said Cheryl Torline. "Our reply was that 'the Lord will provide,' and he has . . . with some help from Indiana University and our wonderful state of Indiana."

Eric, Melanie, Allison and Vanessa Torline, who start classes at IU next week, will have the majority of their college educations covered through a combination of support from 21st Century Scholars and IU's Covenant, now entering its second year.

Created by the Indiana General Assembly in 1990 with the first students benefiting in 1995, 21st Century Scholars is a statewide scholarship program designed to raise the educational aspirations of students from low- to moderate-income families that mainly covers tuition and general fees. IU's Covenant supplements that scholarship with enough funding to cover full financial need, up to the cost of attendance, including textbooks, room and board.


Cheryl and Joe Torline pose at Indiana University Bloomington's Eigenmann Hall with (from top left, clockwise) Vanessa, Allison, Eric and Melanie, who start classes at IU next week. The four will have different majors and live in different residence halls.

Print-Quality Photo

This year, 609 new students will enroll at IU as freshmen and sophomore 21st Century Covenant Scholars, compared with 275 last year. The group will receive more than $3 million from Covenant grants, $2.4 million from 21st Century Scholarship monies and $5.1 million in other state and federal grant aid.

The quadruplets signed a 21st Century Scholars pledge of good citizenship and responsible behavior when they were in eighth grade (students can sign up as early as sixth grade and as late as eighth grade). The pledge states that students will graduate from an Indiana high school with a GPA of at least 2.0; that they will refrain from using illegal drugs or alcohol; that they will apply for admission to an eligible Indiana college during their senior year; and that they will apply on time for state and federal financial aid.

"Neither my husband nor I graduated from college," said Cheryl Torline. "We've had to work hard and still struggled financially, while our friends who did get their degrees have done well. When our oldest child was in junior high, we didn't know about 21st Century Scholars. We were very fortunate to find out about this program in time for Eric, Melanie, Allison and Vanessa to sign up for this terrific opportunity for Hoosier children."

The scholarships couldn't have come at a better time: Cheryl and Joe declared bankruptcy last year when their restaurant business failed (Joe is now operating partner with Baby Back Blues Barbeque in Columbus, Ind., and Cheryl is an administrative assistant at Hanover College). Even with the initial scholarships, they weren't sure how they were going to cover their expected financial contribution toward the cost of room and board. That's when Cheryl and Joe learned of the IU Covenant, through which Indiana University helps with the family's expected contribution beyond the initial 21st Century scholarship money.

"IU's Covenant Scholars program with 21st Century Scholars has been so good for our family," said Vanessa Torline, adding that while she and her siblings will always be extremely close, she's most looking forward to the independence she'll have at IU. "All four of us have been grouped together for so long," she said. "We're very different people in looks and in personality traits. It'll be nice to find a bit more separation."

The four will live in separate residence halls and have different majors:

  • Melanie (the self-described "klutzy" one who has always loved school and came out of her shell with help from her siblings) plans to major in visual arts and become a graphic arts and theater teacher. "My teachers have had such a big influence on my life. I have looked up to them and spent so much time with them at school."
  • Allison ("the outgoing, talkative one") plans to major in political science and international relations, and hopes to continue her vocal and musical theater experience. (Melanie said Allison "is not afraid to do anything.")
  • Vanessa (the "brainy" one) has always wanted to be a writer and hopes to major in journalism. She also loves the theater and hopes to find a career that combines journalism and theater after college. ("She was the one who always had a book at the dinner table," Melanie said.)
  • Eric ("He's a mix of all of us," said Melanie) hopes to be accepted to the Jacobs School of Music and wants to major in music education and vocal performance. ("He's a good listener -- he's not like one of the brothers who would make fun of you," Melanie said.)

Melanie has loved growing up with such a close-knit, large family ("There's always someone to talk to," she said), but she too is looking forward to finding more independence at IU. "Growing up, there were always two of us in class together."

Mom Cheryl said despite their varying interests, IU was the kids' first choice all along. "All four want to study very different disciplines, and they have vastly different personalities; IU had it all," said Cheryl. "I'm very proud of all of them for being accepted at IU for what I am told is the most talented class in IU history."