First-year law student Matthew Novotney had no idea what was about to happen when he was asked to join a Zoom call with NIU College of Law Dean Cassandra L. Hill. He thought he was there to discuss his 1L experience as a law student, but he quickly learned that story was just a rouse to get him on the meeting. Matthew had actually won a $25,000 scholarship from AccessLex.
“Normally I don’t win anything. It was my lucky day!” said Matthew. He was extremely surprised with the announcement from AccessLex that he was randomly selected as one of the $25,000 Grand Prize Scholarship winners for the month of April.
Jennifer M. Schott, Managing Director for AccessLex Center for Education and Financial Capability® and Theresa Popp Braun, Midwest Regional Manager delivered the news to Matthew via Zoom. Also, on the call were NIU’s Executive Vice President and Provost Beth Ingram; Associate Deans Kathy Coles and Yolanda King; and Assistant Deans Kellie Martial, Greg Anderson, and Melody Mitchell.
Dean Hill initiated the partnership with NIU Law and AccessLex Institute® based on the relationship she had with them at her previous institution and the many benefits the program offered for students. AccessLex Institute®, the largest nonprofit organization in the country focuses on access, affordability and the value of legal education. The program, MAX by AccessLex®, is an innovative personal finance program created exclusively for law students. Available at no cost to law schools, MAX drives the knowledge gain and behavior change essential to improving students’ financial well-being. It also offers scholarship incentives to motivate students to complete the financial lessons. The program recently awarded $270,000 to nine current law students and over a million dollars since the program launched in 2018.
Matthew quickly began participating in the MAX by AccessLex® program after learning about the partnership during 1L orientation and his Introduction to Legal Professionalism course. Over the year, he completed the lessons and found them valuable, especially the lessons on financial planning and budgeting.
“I pay for my own education, so I’m always mindful of debt and expenses,” said Matthew. “I chose NIU Law because it was close to home, its proximity to Chicago, and the cost. NIU Law offers a great education at an affordable price,” he added.
Prior to law school, Matthew attended Illinois Valley Community College before graduating from Western Illinois University with a degree in Law Enforcement. He then worked for a year as an intern at the LaSalle County State’s Attorney’s Office. In addition to gaining valuable legal experience, Matthew worked during that time to help eliminate most of his undergraduate student loans before he began law school. Once here, he never imagined winning a scholarship of this nature.
“This scholarship means greater financial freedom after I graduate and will jump start my career. I am extremely fortunate and grateful to have received such an incredible gift.”