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Scholarships from Fundraising Campaign top $26 Million

Thursday, Nov. 01, 2012

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Scholarships from Fundraising Campaign top $26 Million

By Allison Hendrix, staff writer, The Utah Statesman, October 30, 2012

A USU [Utah State University] fundraising effort that ended a month ago is already benefiting students in the form of new scholarships.

Joan Scheffke, the associate vice president for advancement, said more than $26 million of the $500 million raised by the comprehensive campaign is for expendable scholarships — money that can be paid out right away. Those scholarships have already helped many students since the campaign started in 2007, she said.

The raised funds will also pay for what are called endowed scholarships. The scholarships are perpetual, which means they will benefit students not only now, but far into the future, Scheffke said. These include admissions scholarships that help attract high-quality students, she said.

Alanna Cottam, a sophomore studying Elementary Education, is a recipient of an Aggie Scholar scholarship. Although it’s been difficult, she said, it has also helped her to strive academically because in order to keep the scholarship, she is required to keep a 3.5 GPA.

“It’s been nice to have something there to push me to keep up my grades and do my absolute best,” Cottam said. “I found that a lot harder in college than I thought it would be.”

Scholarships mean a lot to students particularly because of the current economic downturn, she said. If she hadn’t been offered the scholarship, she wouldn’t have come to USU.

“With the way the economy has been, there’s not a lot of money out there,” she said. “It’s honestly the only way I’ve been able to come to school for the last year and a half.”

Ross Peterson, vice president for university advancement, said it was difficult for a while to get people to donate to endowments because of the recession. Peterson said scholarship endowments affect students more than almost anything else, however, and USU alumni came through with generous donations to advance new scholarships.

“With the Aggie Promise Scholarship, with the Legacy scholarship, we’re able to fulfill a lot of our goals, but I’d say, in my mind, that’s where we need to do a lot more work,” he said.

Scheffke said the Aggie Promise Scholarship was started by President Stan Albrecht and Ross Peterson. The scholarship allows students of limited economic means who are the first in their family to go to college, she said.

The money that is not used for scholarships goes to endowments. There, it gets invested in different places to assure the best return possible. Year after year, the return can be used for scholarships, Scheffke said.

The Aggie Legacy scholarship provides support to out-of-state students whose parents or grandparents graduated from USU, Scheffke said.

Alyssa Edwards, a sophomore studying communicative disorders, benefited from the Aggie Legacy scholarship. As a former resident of Nevada, she had to pay out-of-state tuition at the beginning of her college career, but the scholarship made up the difference — letting her attend for the equivalent of in-state tuition rates until she gained residency.

Edwards was eligible for the scholarship because her great-grandmother graduated from USU. The opportunity to learn about her grandmother’s life and experiences at USU helped her build a connection to her grandmother and with the university as well.

Many efforts are being established to retain students after their initial year of college when students are more likely to have financial worries and fewer options for financial aid, Scheffke said.

“The ones that are for sophomores, juniors, and seniors are for retention — for students who are having financial difficulties. We want to give them a scholarship if, of course, they’re qualified to receive a scholarship, to help them stay in and finish their degrees,” she said.

One donation came in as a bequest from a man who passed away. A significant amount of that scholarship was allocated to second-year students because fewer scholarships exist to aid students continuing into their second year, Scheffke said.

We find that we have money for students coming in, we have money for juniors and seniors, but there’s a little less money to help students continue in their sophomore year,” she said.

“That was a big step in retention.”

Individual colleges have a number of scholarships that are specific to their programs, mainly donated by alumni who graduated in that department, she said. One donor set up a fellowship, a graduate scholarship, in the department of engineering because he graduated from that department and had a good experience, she added.

“He set up those funds so other graduate students can benefit like he did,” said Scheffke.

Max Olsen, a senior in the computer science program, received a scholarship through his department which has allowed him to stay in school rather than take time off to save up money. He still has to work while he’s in college, but the scholarship helps him finish his degree.

“I think primarily the reason people set up scholarship funds is that they want to help students. Many of these people benefited from scholarships when they were here, so they’re giving back.” Scheffke said. “It’s a tradition.”

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