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WVU Foundation launches need-based scholarship campaign

on Fri, 04/09/2010 - 08:00

Rachel Carpenter works two part-time jobs, attends classes at West Virginia University and substitute teaches at Woodburn Elementary School as part of her education curriculum. Even with scholarship support and work income, the senior education major from Parkersburg is having a rough time making ends meet.

And, she’s not alone.

Many WVU students are feeling the effects of the unsettled economy, and the WVU Foundation has responded by launching a new need-based scholarship campaign.

“Stepping up for Students” is a fund drive to raise money for student scholarships that will be awarded by WVU Financial Aid Office for the 2010-11 academic year.

“We are aware of students who are struggling to make ends meet and stay in school,” said Greg McCracken, University Fund director and organizer of the campaign. “Some students are working multiple jobs, even those already on scholarship, because of the strain the economy has had on them and their families.”

WVU President James P. Clements is also aware of the financial struggles many students are having, and doesn’t want that stopping anyone from earning a college degree.

“We want every student who enrolls at WVU and is serious about their studies to graduate,” Clements said. “We don’t want finances holding them back. That’s why this fund to create new scholarships is so important. If it can keep just one student from dropping out of school, it will be well worth the effort.”

A significant number of students have requested additional review due to changes in their financial circumstances, said Kaye Widney, WVU’s director of financial aid and scholarships.

“So far this academic year, we’ve had more than 650 requests for additional aid,” she said. “That compares with 358 in the 2008-2009 academic year and 329 during 2007-08.”

In Carpenter’s case, she relies on scholarships and work income. Her dad’s work and income have suffered too because of the economic conditions.

In Jarrell Strickland’s case, he relies solely on scholarship support. The junior music major from Aliquippa, Pa., said the economic situation has forced him to become more self-sufficient.

“I’ve been blessed to receive some scholarship support, he said, “and while I’ve tried to hold a job during the school year, it doesn’t really work for me because of my academic schedule – but I do work summers and put that money away.”

But most of that goes for books and food, he said. Stickland’s mother was also impacted by the economy. She was recently laid off, but has since found another job – however, she has not been able to assist much with college expenses.

Chris Deskins of Pineville, W.Va, is a fourth year medical student looking at loan payments once he completes his education. He, too, has some scholarship assistance but it only goes so far.

“My family has been able to help me out over the years, but with the economy the way it is, they’ve had to cut back,” he said. “I know personally for me, it’s made me more aware of my budget and where I’m spending my money.”

To help students like Rachel, Jarrell and Chris, the WVU Foundation is responding with an urgent appeal for scholarship dollars from alumni and friends.

“Your gift to the ‘Stepping up for Students’ fund could make all the difference for a student struggling to find a way to return next fall,” he said. “In some cases, just a few hundred dollars stand between a student and his/her ability to attend WVU.”

McCracken said the campaign will run through the spring semester into summer.

“Past history shows alumni and friends of WVU have always stepped up when there’s been a need,” McCracken said. “Whether it’s $25 or $250, every donation is important to our students and we are very appreciative.”

Carpenter hopes alumni and friends of the University will support the scholarship campaign.

“Every student like me has a dream -- whether that dream is to be a teacher, an engineer or a doctor,” she said. “They just don’t always have the opportunity to get there. With your help, it can happen. What better gift can you give than the gift of an education?”

For more information or to contribute to the “Stepping up for Students” scholarship campaign, visit the Foundation’s Web site at www.wvuf.org, or call the Foundation, 304-284-4000 or 800-847-3856.

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