Stanford is paying up to $160,000 for students to get their MBA—if they work in the Midwest after graduation

The plains of North Dakota.

Silicon Valley's most elite university is trying to support to the heartland.

Wednesday, Stanford University announced the three winners of its first Stanford USA MBA Fellowship. The scholarship, which was announced in the fall, pays the $160,000 for tuition and fees for up to three students over two years. Stanford already has similarly structured programs for students coming from Africa and India.

To be eligible for the scholarship, you have to have a connection to the Midwest. You can be a current resident of a Midwestern state, which Stanford defines as Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota or Wisconsin. Alternatively, you could have lived for three consecutive years in one of those states, have graduated high school in one of those states or have "experiences that demonstrate a strong commitment to, and interest in, the development of the region."

"Demonstrated financial need is preferred," for winners of the scholarship, Stanford says.

Stanford University campus
Source: King of Hearts | Wikipedia

Once scholarship awardees graduate, they must then return to the Midwest "in a professional role that contributes to the region's economic development" within two years of graduating. By the time scholarship winners have been out of the Stanford MBA program for four years, they must have worked in the Midwest for two.

If scholarship winners do not complete the required work commitment, they have to repay the scholarship.

But staying in the Midwest has its benefits. Des Moines, Iowa; Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Ind.; Cincinnati, Ohio; St. Louis, Mo.; Omaha, Neb.; and Dayton, Ohio all rank on a recent top 25 best places for people under 35 to live. The ranking considered factors including access to good jobs, commute time, cost of living and the social scene for young people.

And a Stanford MBA can pay off handsomely. The average salary of for graduates was $140,553 in 2016, according to data released in November. The median salary was $136,000. Both measures were records.

The winners of the first Stanford USA MBA Fellowship are Adam Verhasselt, Amanda Donohue-Hansen and Taylor Seabaugh. Verhasselt was raised on a dairy farm owned by his family in Wisconsin and is the first in his family to graduate from college. Donohue-Hansen is from California but graduated from University of Minnesota and lived and work there for 10 years. Seabaugh grew up in St.Louis, Missouri, and returned after graduating from college to work at 3M and volunteer at local public schools.

"The Midwest is strategically important to the United States and global economy, and Stanford wants to contribute to its strength by encouraging students and alumni to foster economic development and pursue careers in the region," Jonathan Levin, the Dean of Stanford Graduate School of Business and Philip H. Knight Professor of Economics says via a written statement announcing the winners.

See also:

15 schools that produce the most 'unicorn' founders of billion-dollar companies

Stanford business school to MBAs: Easy on the start-ups

What an MBA program won't teach you about leadership

Sebastian Thrun: Why I left my tenured position at Stanford

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