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.
In Part 1, FDE (the name my now life-long friends used in college) committed to creating a scholarship, met our financial goal and in conjunction with a community foundation began preparing for our first recipient. As a part of the preparation we reached out to our alma mater. Reconnecting with the university’s development office provided an unexpected opportunity to expand our original vision.
When we first started our alma mater wasn’t an option because of the size of our scholarship but by the time we were ready to launch circumstances had changed. A donor to the university funded an incentive program to increase the number of endowed scholarships. With a minimum commitment of $50,000, the incentive program would match funds 1:1. This meant an investment of $60,000 would now be a fund of $120,000. The minimum commitment was higher than FDE’s original goal of $15,000 but we decided that it was a challenge we could meet. We each reevaluated our ability to contribute within the next six months, recommitted and succeeded in reaching out goal!
We transferred our fund from the community foundation to our alma mater. Our scholarship is now administered by our academic institution, which includes the application, selection procedures, and policies. By participating in this program we were able to go from a small book scholarship to an endowed scholarship that will have a larger impact on each recipient’s educational debt. Our scholarship is our legacy.
Endowed scholarships are permanent. An endowed scholarship fund makes awards based upon the annual earnings of the fund’s principal. Normally, 80 percent of the earnings are devoted to one or more scholarship awards while the remaining 20 percent of earnings are re-invested with the principal. Academic institutions have varying allocation strategies, minimum creation levels, fees and naming rights for endowed scholarships. Our alma mater allowed us to name our endowed scholarship. We chose ‘1968 Scholarship’, in honor of the first year Black women graduated from our university. When we began our adult learning together we had no idea that one day we would choose to honor four women who paved the way for our experience.
A question that all donors must answer is whether they want to promote their scholarship. There are many reasons for scholarship promotion including raising funds, increasing the visibility and prestige of the award, and expanding the number of applicants. While it was not an unanimous decision we agreed to promote our scholarship for two reasons. First, we wanted to honor the women that paved our way and celebrate the legacy of our friendship. Additionally, as four Black women at a PWI we want to broaden the real and perceived gap of Black alumni giving and participation. One of our first promotional steps was to announce the 1968 Scholarship to the alma mater’s Black alumni group. The announcement included a challenge to our fellow alumni to meet and exceed our success.
Another important question to consider is the appropriate level of involvement. Determining the level of involvement with scholarship recipients should align with the purpose of the scholarship. Is your scholarship about a specific profession? Is it important for you to monitor your scholarship recipients progress? FDE decided that we wanted a connection to our recipients. We want each recipient to understand why we created the scholarship and their place in its legacy. FDE understands the value in serving as a resource and building a network to aid in long-term success and want to contribute non-monetary resources to our recipients.
Reflecting on our experience shows that creating a scholarship is doable. We did it. Four friends overcame challenges, kept a focus on why we started on this journey and did not let the years deter us. We are now celebrating the first recipient of the 1968 Scholarship! I am so proud of myself and each of my friends. Our journey was just that — ours. I hope that these posts provide you with food for thought and inspiration as you determine if creating or supporting a scholarship program is for you and your family or friends.
If you are interested in an academic institution administering your scholarship, contact them and find out their requirements. An additional resource is the National Scholarship Providers Association is the only national organization dedicated solely to supporting the needs of professionals administering scholarships in colleges and universities, non-profits, foundations, and businesses.