Scholarships: Investing in an Equitable Future
BY: MEGAN MCELROY
• ASSOCIATE PROGRAM OFFICER, SCHOLARSHIPS
OCF manages one of the largest scholarship programs of its kind in the country, awarding 3,900 scholarships last year alone. As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, post-secondary education remains a powerful pathway to prosperity, and students need financial help now more than ever with anticipated cuts to state financial aid as well as colleges’ institutional aid.
Georgetown University findings clearly show the positive impacts of higher education. A Bachelor’s degree is worth $2.8 million on average over a lifetime. Bachelor’s degree holders earn 84% more—and associate’s degree holders earn 53% more—than those with just a high school diploma. And out of the 11.6 million jobs created in the most recent post-recession economy, 11.5 million went to workers with at least some college education.
Only 30% of working-age Oregonians (25-64 years old) hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, 18% hold an associate’s degree or credential, and 42% have a high school diploma or equivalent.
Oregon ranks as the seventh least affordable state for low-income families attending four-year institutions. Without aid, students must increase their debt burden, work, or reduce credit hours to make college more affordable. Each of these options has a negative impact on educational attainment. Fear of loan burden can be a strong barrier to attending postsecondary institutions, especially for low-income and minority families.
OCF is committed to closing the gap in educational attainment, and OCF scholarships are mitigating these inequities. Overall, 69% of 2019 scholarship recipients were low-income students and 37% were students of color.
Here are snapshots of just a few recent scholarship recipients:
Danna Solano, from Ontario in Malheur County will be an incoming freshman with dual credit from Portland State University in the fall. Danna will be majoring in social work. Danna received a $3,000 Oregon Latino Scholarship.
Stephanie Enriquez Isaais (pictured above) is currently attending Occidental College in Los Angeles and will be majoring in Computer Science. Stephanie received a $1,000 Oregon Latino Scholarship.
Alejandra Ortega is a high school senior who participates in FFA, Key Club and National Honor Society. She plans to earn a microbiology degree with a goal of becoming a veterinarian. Alejandra received a $1,500 Oregon Latino Scholarship.
Tyler Miller lives in Prospect in Jackson County (population under 500). He learned to weld which helped get his robotics team earn a spot to compete in the Portland-based First Inspires Robotics Competition (sponsored by OCF). He now wants to go to college for welding, open his own shop and hire employees. He received A $1,000 Burrill Family Scholarship.
Kaya Doolaege lives in Cave Junction in Josephine County (population under 2,000). She overcame adversity in her family and in her community. She also participated in Josephine County Foundation’s events – an outgrowth of Community 101 that OCF donor, Frank Ault, created to support youth in giving back to their community. She is the recipient of a $5,000 Roxy Ann Adams scholarship for the second year in a row.
Not only do scholarships support individuals’ post-secondary education, but OCF’s scholarship program also helps support the institutions themselves and their thousands of workers. Through scholarships, OCF helps elevate the important role post-secondary education plays in the state’s economic recovery.
These unusual times also highlight the important role and value of community colleges. We expect to see more students enrolling in community college in order to stay closer to home and save money. Last year, OCF provided $2.6 million in scholarship support to students at two-year schools.
As of this writing, we’ve seen a nearly 60% increase in creation of new scholarship funds this year compared to the same period last year. It’s uncertain whether post-secondary education will resume this fall with in-person classes, remote learning, or a combination of the two. Whatever the form, scholarships to support post-secondary education will continue to benefit students and communities.