Fund-raiser aims to help students

Money from the scholarship fund-raising drive will allow the University to give scholarships to 2,250 more students.

Amy Horst

The University began the largest scholarship fund-raising drive in its history this month, said University President Bob Bruininks at a Board of Regents meeting May 14.

During the next five years, the University hopes to raise $150 million for privately-funded undergraduate scholarships, Bruininks said.

Because of rising tuition, he said, many students work too much, do not graduate on time and are sometimes unable to attend college at all.

“I have growing concern over the prospects for students from low-income and modest-income families,” Bruininks said. “We work very hard here at the University of Minnesota to protect our students.”

He said scholarships offer benefits to the University as well as students.

“(Scholarships) help us attract and keep talented Minnesota students and many others from around the country,” Bruininks said.

Virat Madia, a sophomore in the College of Liberal Arts, said at the meeting that he could not have gone to college without a scholarship.

“Scholarships are often the only option for students in need,” Madia said. “They allowed me to give back to the community.”

Jenny Leuer, a junior in the food science and nutrition department, said scholarships also encourage students to do well before getting to college.

“With scholarships, you’re rewarded for your hard work,” she said.

Despite the benefits of scholarships, Bruininks said, the University ranks last in the Big Ten in the percent of incoming first-year students who receive merit-based scholarships.

Wayne Sigler, University admissions director, said such concerns led University officials to explore options for increasing access to the University, a process he said took a long time.

“We’ve worked intensely (on the scholarship drive) internally,” he said. “We’re pleased to do this, because it’s our responsibility and we’re here to serve students.”

He also said scholarships will help more students graduate within four or five years.

A 2002 study showed the University has one of the lowest six-year graduation rates in the Big Ten.

Sigler and Bruininks said working too much contributes to low graduation rates, and said scholarships allow students to focus on their studies and extracurricular activities rather than working.

Another University study reported that undergraduates with scholarships graduate at rates 15- to 35-percent higher than students who do not have scholarships.

The money from the drive will allow the University to award scholarships to 2,250 more students. Some new scholarship money will be available in the fall.

One of the drive’s first initiatives is a matching fund. If donors give to endowed funds, the University will match their contribution. Endowed funds are invested and do not expire.