Program provided $1.1 million in awards to area students this year
VANCOUVER — The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington (CFSWW) recently opened online applications for its 2024 scholarship cycle. This year, the program awarded a record $1,115,783 to students pursuing postsecondary education in the 2023-2024 academic year.
Deanna Green, scholarship manager at CFSWW, said the program’s growth is thanks to the generosity of local people. In the last two years, the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington has partnered with donors to establish seven new scholarship funds and increase its existing awards. In total, the program awarded 381 scholarships this year, 57 more than the previous year.
“Every additional scholarship we award transforms someone’s life,” Green said. “The power of education is well documented, and I’m grateful to work with so many donors who understand the ripple effect that is created by investing in aspiring, local students.”
In total, the local charitable foundation manages 70 scholarship funds established by donors, organizations and businesses across the region. These funds hold more than $11 million that has been earmarked for students enrolling in undergraduate, graduate, technical or trade courses. Some of the scholarships are geared toward students graduating from specific high schools, attending specific colleges or pursuing distinct fields of study, such as architecture, firefighting, nursing, business, engineering or the arts. Others support students with distinct backgrounds, such as those who have experienced foster care, domestic violence, homelessness or living with a disability.
This year, the program saw a 45 percent increase in applicants. Green anticipates this trend to continue as post-pandemic enrollment rebounds and tuition costs remain near historic highs. So, even with new scholarship funds opening, 60 percent of those who applied for a Community Foundation scholarship went away empty-handed this year.
“The cost of tuition and rising student debt loom large in the minds of students, and scholarships help reduce this financial stress.” Green said. “As a result, students with scholarships are more likely to enroll and complete their degrees. Unfortunately, we can’t support every student in this way.”
According to the How America Pays for College report, 61% of families used scholarships to pay for college in 2023—up a percentage point from last year. For these families, the impact was profound, with nearly 8 in 10 (79%) agreeing that scholarships made it possible to attend college.
Still, common misconceptions about scholarships keep some families from fully exploring this source of funding. Forty-five percent of those surveyed believed that scholarships were only available for students with exceptional grades or abilities. For families who did not apply for scholarships, commonly cited reasons included being unaware of scholarship opportunities, assuming awards were out of reach and thinking applications required too much effort.
In recent years, CFSWW has been working to address many of these concerns. Green and her team have simplified the application process. Now, a brief quiz allows applicants to determine their eligibility for all 70 scholarships and submit one consolidated application for multiple scholarships. At the same time, Green has been working with donors to expand criteria, increase awards and build more equitable processes to serve a broader array of students, especially those who are considered low-income, first-generation, underrepresented or nontraditional.
This year, the organization awarded an average of $2,928 to scholars. Its current scholarship application cycle closes on April 30, 2024. Students interested in learning more or applying for a scholarship award can visit www.cfsww.org/scholarship.
“Our goal is to expand access to educational opportunities across the board so that our region’s students can attain skills and credentials that allow them to live a full life and contribute their full selves to local communities,” Green said.
About the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington
Established in 1984, the Community Foundation helps southwest Washingtonians build a more vibrant community by inspiring investments in local philanthropy. The Foundation holds more than 325 distinct funds, which are actively invested to generate growth and income for granting purposes. Governed by a volunteer Board of Directors, the Community Foundation offers benefits and services to donors, nonprofits and the community at large. Learn more at www.cfsww.org.
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