Scholarship Initiative on track to reach $100 million by 2013

Daniel C. Houston
Staff Writer

The President’s Scholarship Initiative is roughly on pace to meet its goal to raise $100 million in endowed scholarships by May 2013, which marks the end of the three-year campaign.

The initiative has raised $34 million to date, according to Ali Abercrombie, assistant vice president and campaign director, with most of the money raised so far dedicated to funding need-based scholarships for Baylor students. In addition to need-based scholarships, the initiative is targeting three other areas: merit-based scholarships, scholarships for missions work and study-abroad programs, and scholarships for student-athletes.

“We have set internal goals for those [targeted areas] that are really working goals based on what the perceived needs are,” Abercrombie said, “and by far the university scholarships area, which is need-based, is the No. 1 priority. But to say that we’ve achieved success in the initiative is to reach $100 million in endowed scholarship support, and to increase our alumni participation. That is our measure of success when the initiative ends.”

Bill Dube, director of the endowed scholarship program, said the progress made by the president’s initiative will ultimately help to offset the rising cost of a Baylor education.

“Students are going to have a need, and costs are going to continue to go up to some degree,” Dube said. “But a strong endowed program that’s distributing the scholarships and financial assistance to students can help bridge that gap.”

The initiative’s progress has been fueled by more than 4,100 individual donors, Abercrombie said, noting 1,300 of these donors had never before made a gift to Baylor. This influx of first-time donors confirms progress is being made on both major goals of the initiative, which are not only to raise endowed scholarship funds but also to broaden the base of participating alumni.

President Ken Starr’s announcement of the President’s Scholarship Initiative in Sept. 2010 came on the heels of an effort by the 2009-2010 student body officers – including Jordan Hannah, former student body president; Emily Saultz, former external vice president; and Michael Wright, former internal vice president – to communicate the need for increased student scholarships.

“Jordan made an excellent presentation,” Dube said, referring to conversations the student body officers had with Starr and the regents. “Judge Starr was very impressed, I think, with how well they researched and how well they knew what they were talking about and I think it really struck a heartstring there, you might say.”

Hannah, who also served as special assistant to the president during the 2010-2011 school year, said he and the other student body officers gathered student opinion through various surveys and identified the rising cost of a Baylor education as the consensus top concern.

“It was so wonderful to see that the university did take student opinions seriously, and that they really felt that the students’ opinions were very valid,” Hannah said. “I think this is a great first step for broader collaboration between the students and Baylor University as a whole.”

In an Aug. 17 interview, Starr praised the progress the initiative had made so far, but also stressed the importance of continuing to reach out to a broad alumni base to help mitigate the impact of external cuts to student scholarships like those to Baylor’s share of the Texas Tuition Equalization Grant.

“And that’s what we have to do and that’s the message, really, to the Baylor nation and especially to our 152,000 living alumni, our almost countless number of friends, parents, loved ones: You really need to help in your small way or a larger way,” Starr said. “It’s sort of like the widow’s mite in the treasury, the beautiful story that Jesus told as he’s watching the widow give, out of her poverty, all that she had.”

Donations have come from many different parts of the Baylor community, Abercrombie said, including alumni, regents, administrative officials, parents, faculty, staff, the Baylor Student Foundation, and even non-alumni who support Baylor’s mission statement. These non-alumni have contributed a large portion to out-of-the-classroom scholarships, which comprise endowed scholarships for missions work and study-abroad programs.