When a scholarship is awarded, the most obvious effect is on the student receiving it: after working hard to earn good grades and build a solid resume, the recipient of any scholarship can breathe a little easier when they think about paying for college. For those who sponsor and support scholarships, there’s also a noticeable effect -- a gift that helps students get closer to a degree is one of the most satisfying gifts you can give.
But that scholarship also has far-reaching effects that ripple well beyond the sponsor and the recipient. By supporting scholarships, you are having a direct impact on the future of the American workforce.
As our economy becomes more globalized, connected and automated, the face of the workforce will continue to change. One thing won’t change, though. The American workforce will continue to need more and more workers with college degrees -- whether from two-year career and technical schools or four-year colleges and universities. How many more? According to the Center for Education and the Workforce’s Recovery 2020 report: “There will be 55 million job openings in the economy through 2020: 24 million openings from newly created jobs and 31 million openings due to baby boom retirements. ... 35 percent of the job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree, 30 percent of the job openings will require some college or an associate’s degree and 36 percent of the job openings will not require education beyond high school.”
That’s right: within the next five years, two of every three jobs will require at least a two-year degree.
Unfortunately, while the United States still sends more students to college than just about any other country, “overall degree attainment rates have stagnated in the United States while other countries have made rapid gains in recent years.” This report from the federal government’s Pell Institute goes on to draw a sharp line under the bad news: “[T]he nation ranks in the bottom half in terms of degree completion, and ties for last in baccalaureate degree completion.”
This lack of persistence can be attributed to a host of factors. No matter how you look at it, though, financial reasons play a huge part in students dropping out before completion. As the Pell Institute’s Moving Beyond Access report continues, “[a]lthough there have been improvements in terms of access, equality in the attainment of four-year college degrees remains elusive for low-income and first generation students.”
The numbers are laid out in this New York Times article: “[H]alf of Americans in the top fourth of the income distribution have a college degree. Among the poorest fourth of Americans, fewer than one in 10 graduated from college. And the gap is growing. The college graduation rate of high-income Americans born in the 1980s was 20 percentage points higher than in the 1960s. Among low-income Americans, it advanced only 4 percent.” With nearly half of current secondary school students coming from low-income households, this attainment gap is only going to become more significant as they continue enrolling in college.
The Two-Year Option and The Impact of Scholarships
Community colleges can provide an excellent option for students who are underserved by the traditional college model, and many have taken advantage. According to this whitepaper, “approximately 41 percent of all undergraduates who live in poverty are enrolled in our nation’s community colleges.” But, as with four-year schools, financial difficulties can mean the difference between enrolling and graduating, even in a two-year or part-time program of study.
As the authors of Clearing a Path to A Brighter Future continue, “finding the money to pay for the full cost of attendance, including absorbing the loss of income due to time spent studying rather than working, is one of the most difficult barriers underprivileged students must overcome.”
When there’s a gap between the full cost of attendance and the student’s financial aid, it is often filled with student loans. If not, it often means the student has to choose between success in school and working to make ends meet. But there’s a better way to fill the gap, with less debt and fewer hard choices: scholarships.
By supporting scholarships, you’re providing a lifeline to talented but underprivileged students. Your support can help them cover tuition, giving them more free time to study -- and fewer hours of work to make ends meet.
What’s more, the flexibility of private scholarships means that those students can pursue their dream school, rather than choosing based solely on cost. Scholarships mean more students can attend the schools that fit them best. That means higher graduation rates -- and that means a stronger workforce with a more secure future.