1. What’s the need?

A poll of Buford Middle School 7th graders, done in May 2000, found that 78 percent want to go to college. However, only 40 percent of those polled believe they actually will attend college. The reasons: college is too costly, and going to college would defer needed earnings. College is seen as an unattainable goal for the majority of these students.

There is, in fact, a need for more scholarship funding (see #2). Moreover, low-income students usually come from families that never sent anyone to college; thus, college isn’t in the mindset and plans of the students, their parents and their older siblings. The need, then, is both for money as well as the hope that money provides: if students learn by middle school that college funds are available to those who work hard and do well in high school, and if there are no bureaucratic hassles in applying for these funds, it will change many students’ perceptions of themselves and their goals.

 

2. Aren’t there a number of other scholarship programs available for low-income students?

Yes, there are both scholarships and loan programs available. Loans, of course, can saddle students with enormous debt for many years after graduation. Some low income students select colleges based on which ones offer the best financial aid packages. But those schools may not be the most appropriate ones for the applicants.

The Charlottesville Scholarship Program offers deserving students important advantages that other funds don’t offer: flexibility, simplicity, and local access. It is flexible: the program is not limited to those living in poverty; many families of modest incomes need assistance sending kids to college. It is simple; there are no complicated bureaucratic forms to apply. It is locally administered, making it easy for students to work through any questions and problems they have during the application process, and encouraging students to return to Charlottesville after graduation. Finally, professionals working with low-income students report that there simply is never enough money to meet the need. This fund makes a small but important contribution to that need.

3. What difference will this make for the scholarship recipients? For the City?

There is a great deal of concrete evidence that going to college makes a big difference in the lives of young adults. The unemployment rate for those without college degrees is twice that of college graduates. College graduates earn one and a half to two times as much as those without degrees. College graduates are less likely to get in trouble with the law. And the skills they gain from college enable them to give a great deal back to their communities – as certified teachers and other professionals, as active community members, and through their higher incomes (which generates higher tax revenues for the community).

4. How does this benefit our community? What’s in it for us?

The Charlottesville Scholarship Program benefits the Charlottesville community in several ways:

College graduates have half the unemployment rate of those without the degree. Unemployed people have more disruptions in their families, are more dependent on the local community for a variety of services, and are more likely to get in trouble with the law and end up in prison. And prison costs over $18,600/year today in Virginia.

Scholarships will lessen the amount of loans that the recipients and their families must take out to afford college.

Many of the recipients will return to Charlottesville to teach and serve the community in other ways, making a decent living and contributing both taxes and talents here.

As the program gets publicized through the schools, younger children and their families will learn about it. This will raise the hopes of these families for a better future, and the kids will be more motivated to study hard and do well in school. Scholarship recipients will be asked to visit our schools and talk about their experiences, about the difference a college education made in their lives, in order to stimulate the interest of kids in elementary and middle school classes.

5. What’s the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation?

This foundation uses philanthropy to strengthen the community by investing in specific programs and projects that meet community needs. It will invest the scholarship fund, and provide the income generated by the fund to support annual scholarships.

6. Are there any other local government jurisdictions doing this kind of thing?

Yes, there are several. The City of New Orleans offers full tuition, 4-year grants to academically eligible, low-income city residents who graduated from local high schools, to go to Tulane University. The City of University Park, Ill., gives 11 $500 awards to deserving students. Abilene, TX gives 6 $1,000 scholarship awards to children of city employees. Sault St Marie, Canada, provides 7 scholarship of $2,000 each for deserving residents. There are others in addition to these.

7. What’s the process for deciding who receives the scholarships?

We will use the approach that’s been used by other successful scholarship programs. Charlottesville High School counselors will be notified about the scholarship program (who is eligible, criteria for making grants, the process to follow, deadlines, etc.). These counselors will inform eligible students, and work with them in preparing their applications. City employees hear about the opportunity through their human resources offices. Advertising in the local media and use of social media will reach the larger adult population.

A committee of our board will review all applications, and make decisions based on the applicant’s school performance, acceptance by accredited colleges or technical school, need, previous community service, interest in remaining in Charlottesville after graduating, and other factors.