Community college students in California who are struggling to make ends meet and pay their tuition bills may get a boost this academic year. The Foundation for California Community Colleges has set up a permanent scholarship fund of nearly $68 million to provide students with the financial aid they need to continue their education. The endowment fund is a culmination of three years of fundraising work that started with a gift from the Bernard Osher Foundation.
About the Scholarship
Three years ago, the Bernard Osher Foundation gave the Foundation for California Community Colleges a gift of $25 million to begin a scholarship fund for community college students. According to a press release on the Foundation for California Community Colleges website, the Bernard Osher Foundation was founded in 1977 by Bernard Osher to support higher education and the arts. In addition to the initial gift, the foundation also promised to match the colleges' funds.
The L.A. Times reports that California’s 112 community colleges worked together for three years to raise $28.5 million for the scholarship fund. This allowed the Bernard Osher Foundation to contribute an additional $14.2 million to the endowment, which brought the grand total in the scholarship fund to $67.7 million. The scholarship fund is designed to provide financial aid to thousands of California community college students annually.
According to a San Francisco Business Times report, this fund is the biggest system-wide community college endowment in the United States. The money is much needed in the California community college system, which is also the biggest system of education in the United States, with around 2.7 million students. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the fund is predicted to help around 3,400 students in California afford the cost of higher education every year. The endowment will be administered by the Foundation for California Community Colleges.
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Good News for Cash-Strapped Students
The additional financial aid could not come at a better time for some community college students in the state, who are seeing higher tuition fees than ever before. The charge per credit hour at community colleges across the state is increasing from $26 to $36 this year. That can be a huge jump in tuition rates for students enrolled in community college full-time and taking several courses every semester.
The tuition hike was necessary to help community colleges balance their own budgets. The current economic slowdown has forced many states, including California, to slash funding to colleges in their area. This has created a quandary for community colleges in particular since high unemployment rates are also sending more potential students through their doors, even though the schools have less money and resources.
“The significance of this initiative and the Osher Foundation’s generosity cannot be overstated: In addition to raising the level of philanthropy among our colleges, this scholarship endowment has been life-changing to countless individuals. At a time when community colleges struggle to do more with fewer resources, this fund ensures that thousands of students every year will get the financial support they need,” Jack Scott, Chancellor of California Community Colleges, told the L.A. Times.
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Working Now and in the Future
The scholarship fund has already helped numerous California students afford the education they need to land better-paying jobs in the sluggish California economy. Since its beginnings in 2008, the fund has awarded $2.7 million in scholarship funds, with an additional $2.1 million offered in the past academic year alone.
“With its historic commitment, the Osher Foundation launched a new era of philanthropy for California Community Colleges,” Dr. Paul Lanning, President, and CEO of the Foundation for California Community Colleges said in the press release. “Over the past three years, this fundraising challenge not only helped our system increase financial support to students who need it most, but it also created a powerful reference point for other donors that our system and students are worthy of this level of investment.”
California community college students are not just the largest population of students in the country; they are also one of the lowest-income populations in California. The average salary for a full-time student in the state is $16,223; about one-fourth of those adults make $5,544 or less annually. The additional funds will help those low-income students complete their education and vocational training so that they can move into higher-paying jobs and ultimately break the cycle of poverty for their families.
“From its beginning in 1977, the Bernard Osher Foundation has focused on scholarships to provide opportunity for higher education to a progressively diverse population of students,” Dr. Mary Bittman, Osher Foundation president, said in the press release. “While our grants traditionally went to institutions awarding baccalaureate degrees, Mr. and Mrs. Osher and our trustees developed greater familiarity with the importance and value of California’s community college system and determined to be of more help to students with significant financial challenges and a strong commitment to education and self-improvement.”
The Foundation for California Community Colleges is a non-profit organization committed to benefit, support and enhance the workings of the California Community College system. This partnership with the Bernard Osher Foundation marks a significant initiative for community college students in California, offering many California residents hope for a higher education that would not have been available otherwise. With the appropriate education, many of these students will experience improvements that may transform their quality of life and that of their families.
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