Student reflects on winning free tuition

Like many Eastern Michigan University freshmen, Alex Theisen will be taking a full load of classes next year. He and his classmates will trudge across campus, grind through their daily classes, and further their progress toward a degree.

Unlike almost all of his peers, he won’t be paying for it.

Theisen was the first winner of “Tuition Toss,” EMU’s giveaway of a year’s worth of tuition, valued at $10,000, to a randomly selected student at football games.

During the first quarter, Theisen and one other student were called over the PA system to report to a promotions kiosk. Then they went out onto the field and “Swoop” mascots, one in green and one in white, threw footballs into customized bins for one minute. The white Swoop, representing Theisen, scored the most, and Theisen won Tuition Toss.

“It was surreal, really surreal. It doesn’t feel like it’s real,” said Theisen. “It feels good, but it’s weird. I’m not used to it yet.”

Theisen is embarking on a relatively expensive education. He’s on a pre-med track at Eastern and plans on going to medical school. Theisen has a $4,000 scholarship but is paying for the rest of his schooling with student loans.

“I’m a biology student, pre-med—that’s what I want to do, to go to medical school eventually. Having to pay a lot less loans now, I can take out more loans then, and it’ll make a big difference,” said Theisen. “$10,000 is a lot of money, no matter how you look at it. If I don’t have to take out that $10,000 in loans then I can afford medical school a lot easier.”

Tuition Toss is a controversial topic on campus. Some feel it trivializes the cost of tuition. Student government president Steven Cole said in a statement that scholarships should not be handed out randomly but that they should be given based on need.

Theisen knows how fortunate he is to get a free year of tuition.

“Sometimes things happen that are really lucky,” he said.

EMU had its lowest attendance of the year on the night of Tuition Toss by almost 1,000 people, but the promotion encouraged Theisen to attend. He saw an email about it, and then his roommate put on the full-court press.

“My roommate just kept talking about it all week,” said Theisen.

The athletic department will hold another Tuition Toss this Saturday at the football game against the University of Massachusetts, which kicks off at 3 p.m. and is being streamed online on

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