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Matthew Pike

A Walter H. Judd Fellowship helped vet med student Matthew Pike travel to Asia to study traditional and integrated medicine for animals.

An exceptional drive continues

U's historic fund-raising drive for student support reaches significant milestones

By Steve Anderson

Oct. 11, 2006

They motivate. They inspire. They open doors. Above all, they change lives. For some 6,700 students system-wide, scholarships and fellowships have made a quality U of M education possible. Just three years ago, that number was only 4,800.

Thanks to new gifts to the U's $150-million Promise of Tomorrow Scholarship Drive, 38 percent more students have been given opportunities they never thought they'd have. And the number of students receiving privately funded scholarships or fellowships is expected to increase over the next few years, as payments on gift pledges are fully realized and endowed funds reach their full value.

But the U's commitment to student support won't end there.

"Our goals in launching the scholarship drive were to help at least 50 percent more students by raising $150 million," explains U President Robert Bruininks. "We're going to meet that substantial goal thanks to the generosity of our donors and are on track with increasing the number of students helped, but there is still great need.

"Student support will continue to be a top fund-raising priority and I am now committed to doubling the number of students helped compared with three years ago when the drive was launched."

Scholarships provide hope
Private giving has played a major role in making sure scholarships and other financial aid have kept pace with the cost of a U education-up 41 percent since 2002. Part of the increase in aid is due to a boost in the average size of scholarship awards: from $2,701 before the drive to $3,760 last academic year.

One student benefiting is freshman Karen Davidshofer, who endured unimaginable tragedy early in her life. Shortly after the death of their mother from breast cancer, Davidshofer and her brother were faced with the loss of their father in a car accident.

"At 12 years old, I knew that I would be more or less on my own for college," she says. "It seemed like there was little I could do."

But in high school, Davidshofer discovered there was a lot she could do as she explored her interests, set goals and found hope. A choir director became an encouraging role model. Receiving a McGuire Scholarship and other financial aid made college possible.

Now, Davidshofer, who is fluent in Spanish, has studied French, and is considering a career as an interpreter, is optimistic about the future. Her story reflects the drive and aspiration that are common among scholarship recipients. "Having scholarships gives me the motivation and the opportunity to reach for my goals," she says.

Scholarship drive highlights

6,700 students now being helped by scholarships or fellowships, a 38 percent increase in three years.

45,860 alumni and friends made gifts, a record number for student support.

$3,760 average award is up 40 percent from pre-drive levels.

Twice as many students receiving scholarship help is U's renewed commitment.

Matchmakers, matchmakers
Three programs illustrate the U's commitment to providing access to talented, qualified students regardless of their ability to pay: two matching incentive programs for scholarship and fellowship gifts, and the Founders Opportunity Program. "Together, these programs underscore our continuing effort to ensure that financial barriers don't come between good students and a chance to study at the U," says Bruininks.

The President's Scholarship Match and the 21st Century Match (for fellowships) encourage endowment gifts by matching the payout on endowed funds, doubling the amount that is available for students. Three years into the drive, 381 new endowed scholarships, for a value of $40 million, are being matched. Fellowship gifts worth $49 million are also being matched. Both the scholarship and fellowship matching programs will continue.

In 2005, the U implemented the Founders Opportunity Program, which supplements federal Pell Grants to cover 100 percent of tuition and required fees for qualifying students. "It demonstrates that the University really wants to be accessible to low income students," says Jim McCorkell, executive director of Admission Possible, a nonprofit that steers economically disadvantaged students toward college.

Karen Davidshofer
McGuire Scholar Karen Davidshofer says scholarships provide "the motivation and the opportunity to reach for my goals."

The numbers reflect the commitment. A third of U undergraduates with scholarships are from families with household incomes below $50,000. The U also ranks near the top of public institutions for providing financial assistance to students from families earning less than $30,000.

The value of experience
"Since I come from a family of modest means, I applied for a Walter H. Judd Fellowship," explains Mathew Pike, '07 D.V.M., whose path to his area of study was anything but ordinary.

One year into his veterinary medicine program, Pike contracted what doctors called a fluke virus that attacked his heart and landed him in the hospital.

When he got the virus again, he started looking for ways to prevent it from coming back. Around the same time, Pike took an integrated medicine course that convinced him to give Chinese herbs a try.

Not only was the treatment successful, it changed the direction of his coursework. "It convinced me to expand my studies to include traditional Chinese medicine and integrated medicine as it applies to animals," he says.

"Receiving the Judd Fellowship gave me the opportunity to study abroad in China and Korea, and gain valuable experience that would not have been possible without financial help."

Renewed commitment
Even with a successful scholarship drive and increases in many areas of student support, President Bruininks thinks the U can and will do better.

"We compare well with other institutions in the amount of aid we offer to students at the lowest economic levels, but there is still much room for improvement at other levels," he says.

"We also continue to trail peer institutions in the amount of merit aid we offer, making it harder to compete for top students. For both reasons, we will continue to reach out to alumni and friends and ask for their help."