GREENSBORO — Bennett College has a new tool to attract top students: a full-ride scholarship.

The Illustrious Belle Award covers the full cost of attendance for top first-year students. The private women’s college awarded two of these new scholarships this semester.

This new scholarship comes as Bennett looks for ways to increase enrollment and shore up its finances so it can hold onto its accreditation. In December, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges put Bennett on probation for unspecified financial issues after the college ran deficits for two prior years.

Earlier this year, President Phyllis Worthy Dawkins ordered Bennett administrators to find out why Bennett was losing prospective students to other colleges.

The big reason was money, said Gisele Abron, the college’s registrar and interim associate vice president for enrollment management. Some students interested in Bennett ended up going to another school that dangled more scholarship dollars.

“We put pen to paper and started looking at what we could do to attract those high-performing students,” Abron said.

Bennett already had three full scholarships, but two are limited to students from Georgia or certain South Carolina counties. Just one of these full scholarships has no geographic restriction, but Bennett can award only one each year.

So Bennett did two things: It created the Illustrious Belle Award and it increased the amounts of existing scholarships. more by John Newsom