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Wealthy Donor Promises College Tuition to Help Spur Growth in Kansas Hometown

Three hundred middle and high schoolers filed into their school auditorium recently in the small, southeast Kansas town of Neodesha, uncertain why they’d been called there.

They left cheering and hugging. Some of the older students were teary-eyed.

College tuition and fees need no longer hold back graduates of this manufacturing community, about halfway between Wichita, Kan., and Joplin, Mo. Wealthy retired businessman Ben Cutler hopes to turn around the fortunes of his dwindling hometown — population 2,300 — and will foot those costs for the next 25 years, and possibly decades beyond that.