University System of Georgia students who need financial assistance in attending and staying in college will be eligible for help, thanks to a new $630,000 scholarship pool created and funded by the University System of Georgia (USG) Foundation.
Half of the funds come from donations to the foundation's annual "Regents Celebration of Educational Excellence Awards" event, and the remainder from the USG Foundation's investments.
"We are extremely excited to be in a solid financial position to fund this ambitious awards program," said USG Foundation Chair Neil Pruitt Jr., who also serves on the Board of Regents. "The foundation's goal as set forth in our strategic plan is raising funds for need-based scholarships. With this program and the generous support of Georgia's business and philanthropic communities, our ongoing work to provide funding for scholarships at USG institutions is entering an exciting new era."
The University of North Georgia (UNG) has raised more than $1 million for student scholarships in the past year and celebrated the achievement at the university’s second annual Scholarship Ball, held in March at Forsyth Convention Center in Cumming. The Scholarship Ball itself raised $340,498. All proceeds fund scholarships for UNG students. UNG President Bonita Jacobs has made increasing scholarship support for students one her top priorities as president.
"We know that higher education is transformational and it changes lives by opening new doors of opportunity and strengthening communities," Jacobs said. "Unfortunately, many students do not get the chance to experience college without the benefit of scholarships. Through the extraordinary work of our foundation trustees and advancement team, and through your generous support, we are able to lessen the financial burden of attending college."
While the USG Foundation has a history of providing funds for scholarships, the new era Pruitt describes reflects significant changes in the current scholarship model. The key change is giving the scholarships in the name of the annual event sponsors, in order to recognize their support of public higher education in Georgia. Another important change is providing institutional presidents greater flexibility in how to use the funds to help deserving students.
This year, there will be 42 awards to distribute to the USG's 31 institutions – one for each institution – with the balance going to institutions based on the numbers of Pell scholars attending a college or university or at the request of the contributing sponsor.
Each award is worth $15,000 and is provided to the president of each institution for distribution. The president will have complete control over the disbursement of the awards received, providing one, two or multiple scholarships, with the only stipulation that the scholarships must be need-based.
"As the University System focuses on keeping college affordable and accessible, developing new sources of need-based aid is a priority," said Pruitt.
In addition, college officials know through experience that just a small scholarship often can mean the difference between remaining in college and completing a degree or dropping out. The USG Foundation's need-based scholarship program is designed to help deserving students bridge that financial gap.
With college enrollment increasing and many families struggling to pay for college, more students across the nation are seeking financial assistance to pursue higher education. Most UNG students receive some type of financial aid, from scholarships and grants to student loans. The university consistently has been recognized by Kiplinger Personal Finance as one of the Top 100 Best Value Public Colleges in the nation, including being ranked No. 1 in the nation in 2013 for students having the least amount of debt at graduation.
Institutions will be receiving the USG funds in June, and presidents will award scholarships for the 2014-2015 academic year. UNG offers a variety of scholarships and grants; for more information, visit the financial aid website.