Sometimes unexpected challenges can halt college students’ plans – financial constraints, family responsibilities, health issues and more. Having the support of a scholarship can make all the difference in the world.
Thanks to The Bernard Osher Foundation, headquartered in San Francisco, that support will be available through assistance for eligible students to return to college and complete their undergraduate degrees. The Osher Foundation’s gift of $1 million to create a permanent endowment at the University of Mississippi will fund scholarships for those individuals who have experienced a disruption in their education of five or more years.
UM Chancellor Dan Jones says the Osher Foundation gift will serve as a positive change agent in many individuals’ lives.
“We are profoundly grateful to Bernard Osher for providing such exceptional support that will have a far-reaching impact on individuals, our state and beyond. Education is arguably one of the greatest gifts you can give another individual for it lasts a lifetime. Increasing educational opportunities is essential to moving our society forward and embracing the opportunities before us. The Osher Foundation is to be commended for its deep commitment to providing educational opportunities, and in this case ‘second chances,’ to those who have had their dreams interrupted. The University of Mississippi will work to ensure these reentry scholarship recipients have the support and services to realize great success.”
Since 2012, the Osher Foundation has provided Ole Miss $50,000 annually for scholarships, including $50,000 for flow-through funds to use for 2014-15 scholarships while the endowment matures. This annual assistance is awarded to approximately 25 nontraditional students who want to complete degrees and realize greater career opportunities, and that number is expected to grow.
Osher Foundation President Mary Bitterman says the organization recognizes the value in providing support to nontraditional students.
“The Foundation was introduced to the experiences and goals of reentry students after providing scholarship support for two local institutions that offered programs specifically for that population. We were impressed by how these students managed family, financial and work obligations while pursuing degrees. A strong belief in the potential of these students, plus the relatively meager financial aid available to them, inspired the Foundation to launch the Reentry Program.
“Ole Miss smartly designed and implemented an Osher Reentry Program for two years prior to being considered for an endowment. It was that record, the University’s existing services for returning students and the additional funds the university committed to Reentry Scholarships, that gave the Foundation confidence in making this gift,” Bitterman noted.
Ole Miss has increased services to help assure students returning to college have all the tools to be successful. Among them are an array of specialized academic support centers; dedicated financial aid and academic advisers; satellite campuses in Tupelo, DeSoto County, Booneville and Grenada; and more.
“At a minimum, we expect grantees to continue to promote the scholarships to adult students and distribute all the funds available every year,” said Bitterman. “Beyond that, we hope the gift helps raise the profile of nontraditional students on campus and the University continues to consider this group’s unique needs as student services evolve.”
Laura Diven-Brown, UM’s director of financial aid, says she anticipates many positive returns on the Osher Foundation’s investments in reentry students.
“Through our work in higher education, we have seen the array of life challenges and obstacles that can occur as individuals are pursuing college degrees. It is very unfortunate when these circumstances or the lack of finances have to interrupt their studies. That’s why we are so pleased that the Osher Foundation is partnering with us.
“The Osher Reentry Scholarships will enable many students to return to campus, earn their degrees and make valuable contributions to society. We look forward to following the progress of these students and expect to see their lives transformed by exceptional educational opportunities,” Diven-Brown said.
UM Associate Provost Noel E. Wilkin agrees, pointing to the direct, long-term benefits.
“We are extremely grateful to the Osher Foundation for its support that helps students return to the university to earn their degrees. We know that a college degree will increase a person’s opportunities and lifetime earning potential. The perpetuity of this gift enables us to permanently commit to facilitating students’ abilities to return and accomplish their goals. It is a gift that directly benefits students.”
Gifts of all sizes can be combined to assist non-traditional students at Ole Miss. Individuals and organizations interested in contributing can learn more by calling the Office of University Development at 662-915-3937.