Author: Necole S. Irvin
Nationally, the cost of college tuition continues to rise. This is an unfortunate fact. While not the only or complete answer, scholarships are a solution for many. This two-part post is about the post-college desire and clarity that three friends and I had to give back by creating a scholarship for Black women attending our alma mater. While this is our story, we hope it provides guidance for anyone considering this path.
My friends and I met our freshman year of college and are still having a FDE blast! (FDE was the name of our group and if you went to school in Atlanta during the early 90’s you might have attended one of our “events”.) Several years after graduation we began talking about how we could give back. We attended a well-endowed PWI (aka predominately white institution) and while alumni giving requests were not particularly enticing we desired to contribute to the place that played an important role in each of our lives. We decided to create a scholarship.
When one is considering the creation of a scholarship the first step is to determine the purpose. Why is the scholarship being created and how will you determine its success? We all graduated with debt and understood how that can influence your future. As a result, creating a scholarship to support Black women and help reduce their educational debt was the path we chose. In the early days of our discussions, awarding a scholarship was how we defined success.
Creating a scholarship requires funding. Is it funds you have saved, solicited, or a generated via a family/collective account? After several years of discussion, FDE committed to each annually contribute $500 and once we met our goal of $15,000 we would begin awarding a scholarship to cover book fees. At the time there were many things we didn’t discuss. Would we continue an annual contribution to the scholarship fund? What would be the duration of the award? Would it be an annual scholarship? We also failed to consider if we wanted the scholarship to remain only ours or invite others to contribute.
Even with the unknowns we were clear in our purpose. We wanted to support someone like us which meant gender, community service and financial need were important. Geography, field of study or academic achievement including grades, rank in class or standardized test results were not. The selection criteria should support the purpose of the scholarship.These and many other considerations must be thought through as you develop the scholarship guidelines and selection criteria. The selection criteria should support the purpose of the scholarship.
Pivotal to the success of any scholarship program is who will administer the scholarship and what will it cost? When we committed to creating a scholarship for a student at our alma mater we approached them as the logical administrator. Unfortunately our aspirations didn’t reach the institutions minimum levels. This didn’t deter us. One of us worked at her hometown community foundation and we started our fund there. What is right for you will depend on factors including the type of student you want to help, how much you want to give away, and how much say you want to have in choosing the recipients. The four of us lived in different cities and the community foundation was the right fit for us as we built our scholarship fund.
Even though life challenges (loss jobs, unexpected financial crisis, shifting responsibilities, stock market plunges, etc.) stretched our original timeline several years longer than expected, our commitment remained strong. Once we reached our original financial goal we agreed that the community foundation would serve as the administrator of the scholarship. We started considering our role beyond raising the funds to support the scholarship. One of the things we talked about was how to ensure that students learned of our scholarship and applied. We reached out to our alma mater for guidance. This decision changed the trajectory of our story and the future impact of our scholarship.
Part 2 will follow our journey as we worked with our alma mater and prepared for our first scholarship recipient. Check back next week to continue reading about our experience.