By Jeffrey Bagel
Erie Community College – forced to raise annual tuition by $300 starting in fall of 2015 – is unfortunately not immune to the increasingly burdensome trend at colleges across the country. The price of higher education continues to rise, and this always puts an extra strain on hard-working students with limited or no financial aid.
But thankfully, due to the support of many individual and corporate donors in Western New York and beyond, the Erie Community College Foundation is able to ease these increases by offering academic and book scholarships to students either working toward one- or two-year degrees at ECC, or to those acquiring ECC credits before continuing on to a four-year degree at one of the region’s many nationally renowned colleges and universities.
Over the last five years, the ECC Foundation has awarded more than 750 scholarships totaling almost $1.1 million to students looking to start, re-start or redirect their education. Our minimum scholarship award is $500 – enough to erase the college’s latest tuition increase – and more than 25 percent of our student-scholars have received multiple scholarships.
And although these students’ studies, career pursuits and off-campus lives are quite varied, one constant remains: our scholarship program helps ECC students avoid rising costs and debt, all while proceeding toward a promising future.
Our students who take the time and effort to apply for scholarships are often rewarded with more than just money. On the morning after graduation two years ago, a student who was a scholarship recipient and had just received his diploma and secured his first job in his field of study wanted to say thank you with more than just words. His gesture? He helped financially establish a new scholarship to assist students just like he was helped.
I encourage all college students, whether they attend ECC or any other accredited college, to research and pursue scholarship opportunities. By being more proactive in securing funding sources for their education, students can combat the aforementioned ever-rising tuition costs. Look locally and nationally and you’ll find scholarships that students neglect to apply for, despite the encouragement from professors and financial aid professionals.
Scholarship donors at ECC and elsewhere are making investments to impact student lives daily, and for this, I’m thankful. Now it’s time for students to take full advantage of these scholarship opportunities and, in turn, impact their own colleges, communities and careers.
Jeffrey Bagel, CFRE, is associate vice president of foundation and alumni relations of the Erie Community College Foundation.