Monday, April 25, 2011

Creating Opportunity

Thousands of student stories are developed at MVCC each year. Without the support of the MVCC Foundation, many of those stories would have a very different narrative. For example, the story of a student who graduated in the top 10 percent of their class and attended MVCC before transferring to a highly respected university would not have played out without the student receiving a presidential scholarship. Similarly, the single mother who completed our nursing program and started a career and support her children would not have been written without the student receiving multiple scholarships available through the Foundation. These stories and countless others comprise the story of Mohawk Valley Community College itself. Whether it’s helping to slow the "brain drain" by providing excellent education to recent high school graduates, providing relevant career skills to returning adults, or breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty for underserved populations, MVCC has been able to fulfill its mission to a greater extent due to the support of the MVCC Foundation. With the challenges facing this region, MVCC has an unprecedented responsibility to advance our important mission to the greatest extent possible.

Unfortunately, not every need can be met through traditional means, which is why the Mohawk Valley Community College Foundation recently launched the Challenge and Opportunity comprehensive fundraising campaign. With a goal of $7 million, this campaign will provide the College and our students with the traction necessary to ensure that obstacles are overcome to secure individual student and community success. A feasibility study was conducted to assess the critical needs in the community that MVCC can only address with private support outside our operating budget. One-hour interviews were completed with 76 people of influence and affluence – some connected to the College and others not as much. The study helped identify four initiatives that comprise the focus of the campaign – 1. Creating student opportunity; 2. Breaking barriers; 3. Revitalizing the Economy; 4. Educational Excellence. This post is the first of four that provide background on the context and significance of each campaign initiative.

With the rising cost of tuition, a college degree is increasingly out of reach for too many Americans. Although MVCC is committed to limiting tuition increases – having raised tuition less than 3% each of the past 5 years (with 1.5% increases 3 of the last four), not every student qualifies for federal and state financial aid. If a student has a household income of as little as $44,000 in some cases, they fall above the threshold for federal Pell grants and must take out student loans if they do not have the resources to pay for college. The Creating Opportunity initiative provides scholarships for students of all backgrounds who might not otherwise be able to afford attending college.

The MVCC Foundation currently manages 92 named scholarships and provided $280,000 in scholarships to 250 individual students last year. An endowed scholarship can be established with $10,000 to provide a scholarship from the annual interest of the investment. The most comprehensive scholarship program is the Presidential Scholarship that provides full tuition for two years to any student who graduates in the top 10% of any high school in Oneida County. The Presidential Scholarship is one of the best approaches to minimizing the natural “brain drain” that occurs in every community where the best and brightest high school graduates leave to attend college elsewhere – too often rarely to return home. Each year about 60 presidential scholars, including some valedictorians, save money and stay home for two years by enrolling in small classes taught by highly qualified faculty. By attending MVCC, these students spend two more years in this community with a chance to expand their experience and appreciation for the region – making them more likely to stay or return if they choose to go away. Endowing the Presidential Scholarship fund is a primary priority of the Challenge and Opportunity Campaign and represents half of the overall $7 million goal.

The Creating Opportunity initiative will help secure the futures for countless MVCC students for years to come. With hundreds already benefiting on an annual basis, expanding the number of scholarships available will ensure that even more students are able to pursue their educational dreams that otherwise would be delayed or derailed completely due to the lack of financial support. The Challenge and Opportunity campaign will expand the student stories that have yet to be written and help craft the future narrative of this community by creating opportunity where it currently fails to exist for so many in our community

For more information, check out the MVCC Foundation website or if you have any comments on this post, please contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.