Published on 2012/10/09

Scholarship Support Has Big Impact on Adult Students

The gift from the Osher Foundation to Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Studies makes it possible for a number of adults to afford enrolling in higher education when that otherwise would have been unrealistic.

Recently, the Bernard Osher Foundation (San Francisco, CA) awarded a $1 million endowed gift to Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies (SCS) for the Osher Reentry Scholars program. The $1 million gift is in addition to the foundation’s $50,000 grant for each of the past five years. These gifts exemplify the foundation’s focus on helping adult students complete their undergraduate degree with a particular focus on students who have dropped out.

The impact of the foundation’s support for adult learners at SCS has been clear through annual assessment of the program and is the main reason that support for the Osher Reentry Scholars program has now been made permanent by the foundation.

A Vote of Confidence

Recipients of funds through the Osher Reentry Scholars program are selected based on their academic achievement and financial need. Over the past five years SCS has been able to provide awards up to $5,000 to more than 45 students.

The awardees must have a gap of at least five years in their attendance at an institution of higher education. Often times this stopping and starting can cause students to doubt if they can finish and this award reminds them that it is possible. Students that have received Osher grants have shared that the recognition of receiving this award has been motivation for them to continue with their goal of completing their undergraduate degree.

Balancing Work and School

Throughout the program’s existence, recipients have shared that the funds awarded help them to avoid a classic conflict for adult students. Often adult students are paying their own way and may have to work additional hours to fund additional courses. This additional work may provide less time to study and challenge their ability to achieve high grades. The Osher Reentry Scholarship allows them more opportunity to focus on their studies and complete their degree faster.

Increasing the Impact of Donor Support

The foundation’s awarding of funds has a ripple impact on our community of adult learners. Individual and other donors are reminded of the impact that their dollars have on the student community and can see the value of the investment. The additional money awarded by the Osher Foundation also allows for the school to award more non-Osher scholarships to those that may not be candidates for the Osher Scholars program.

The Bernard Osher Foundation’s support of SCS students provides the opportunity for more adult students to continue their education and, in some cases, complete their degree more quickly. It also provides the much needed encouragement for students to continue their education and for others to provide additional scholarship support.

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Readers Comments

Quincy Bauer 2012/10/09 at 12:16 pm

I think the most important point that Dr. Gordon makes here on the impact of these adult student scholarships is the vote of confidence.

It may seem simple and self-evident, but yes, many adult learners have spent many years away from school, and maybe the first time around it didn’t go so well, and often they need every bit of support and motivation they can get. Even the availability of a strong scholarship program expressly for adult learners is important, because I think in terms of financial aid, there is a bit of a myth that there is no such money available for adult learners, that it is all for fresh-faced straight out of high school students.

Combating this misconception is hugely important, and the confidence boost that such a scholarship program gives is half the battle for increased adult learner success.

Eileen Peters 2012/10/10 at 6:33 pm

I think the balancing work and school part is supremely important. Giving adults the opportunity to avoid having to pick up an extra job to fund their schooling (so that they can find a BETTER job) is crucial when we’re talking about giving these students a fair chance of completing their education and improving their lives.

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