Finding the students’ future; Scholarships helping RCC attendees stay in school

Published 10:41 am Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Minnesota State Colleges and University’s Access to Excellence scholarship campaign is in its first year, and already is seeing positive results from the state’s colleges.

Riverland Community College Dean for Institutional Advancement Steve Bowron said it fit nicely with what the college has already been doing.



“With the skills-gap issues that are out there … we wanted to find a way that could really make it, as much as possible, easier for students, and decrease some of the financial barriers that these students are facing,” Bowron said. “One way to do that is through scholarships.”

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The Access to Excellence campaign is a program by MnSCU to have all the colleges and their affiliated foundations focus on creating more scholarships for students. The campaign, which is in its first year and has 42 foundations affiliated, raised about $17.4 million dollars overall in scholarship gifts, which was 74 percent ahead of its first-year goal of $10 million. According to Bowron, Riverland raised a total of $371,432, and awarded 478 scholarships in the 2014 fiscal year.

The scholarships come from a variety of sponsors, including individual sponsors, businesses, community organizations, and the Riverland Community College Foundation. About 60 percent of the sponsors are individuals.

With the new campaign, Bowron said Riverland reports on a quarterly basis where they stand in terms of scholarships. Yet Bowron pointed out the foundation started looking into increasing scholarships in 2012.

“Our board really saw the need for more scholarships for students to support us locally here at Riverland,” he said. “We were kind of ahead of the game, but it fit nicely with the overall project.”

The Riverland Foundation started an initiative program called “150 by 2015,” which aims to get at least 150 individual sponsors by the end of the year 2015. They had 90 when they started, and currently stand at 131 sponsors.

“We’ve done quite well at getting individuals, organizations and local companies to step up, sponsor scholarships and support our students,” Bowron said. “The people here care about their community, they care about the members of the community, and they’re very passionate about education and want to do what they can to support.”

Riverland President Adenuga Atewologun said the campaign has opened doors for the foundation’s scholarship initiative. He gave an example of Bremer Bank scholarships, which the campaign helped Riverland apply for this year. Yet he said Access to Excellence has an even bigger role.



“It helps us focus and spotlight on the role scholarships can play for us,” Atewologun said.

Atewologun said the demographics in Minnesota have shown a large, low-income or immigrant population, which are the populations that don’t normally have easy access to funding for higher education.

“Scholarships would be a very important piece of the package for those less affluent students, and it would definitely minimize debt for them,” he said.

He pointed out many of the students attending Riverland have families and/or full-time jobs, and he hopes that receiving scholarships can help the students focus on their studies more.

“If they can spend more time on academics, then their chances of success are much better,” Atewologun said. “We really appreciate all those that, whatever people do to support scholarships, it helps.”

Bowron said although students may not realize it when they sign up for scholarships, the benefits surpass receiving money.

“The affirmation part of it is almost bigger than the money they receive,” he said.

Riverland gives scholarships based on not only GPA and income, but also on who the student is as a person. He said in receiving recognition for things like community service or passion for their future plans — things they may not have been recognized for before — many students choose to work harder than they may have.

“I think the bigger piece is the fact that somebody cared enough about them to give away their resources so they could do better in school and change their life, and that’s the part that’s so important,” Bowron said. “When students know somebody else is helping them, they almost kick up their game and want to be better students.”