As was common in newly established and struggling institutions of higher education in the mid-nineteenth century, the Illinois Institute sold perpetual scholarships. Like the Methodist DePauw, the Illinois Institute sold these scholarships for $100. Not without some sort of restrictions, such as only lineal descendants of the purchaser and only one-at-a-time, these scholarships became a boondoggle and then a financial drain on the school.
According to a report drafted by The Committee on Wheaton College that was established to investigate Congregational involvement in the institute, the Illinois Institute had sold fifty perpetual scholarships for $100 and twenty-five eighteen year scholarships had been sold. DePauw had sold twelve year scholarships for $50 and six year scholarships for $30. As of 2010 Northwestern University still honored perpetual scholarships with their website noting that roughly 400 students had utilized this benefit.
Of the fifty perpetual scholarships sold prior to the Committee’s report, the Illinois Institute was able to cancel twenty-three and convert them into five years of tuition. Of the twenty-five eighteen year scholarships eleven had been converted.
One of the $100 perpetual scholarships had been sold to Joseph Powell, trustee of the Illinois Institute and father of noted explorer John Wesley Powell. Powell, knowing the financial struggles of the Institute, converted his perpetual scholarship (#225) to one that provided five years of tuition, which Powell utilized each term until the scholarship expired in 1864.