Students First generates private donations for SF State students
Additional funding for a college student can mean the difference between focusing on academics and procuring financial security by means of extra work.
The Students First campaign is trying to lessen the financial burden for students by providing scholarships made up from private donations. Robert Nava, vice president for University advancement, said the campaign is designed to help generate funds and also added that those with financial need make up most of SF State’s student base.
Chris Quock, who received a presidential scholarship at SF State back in 2004, knows firsthand the benefits of extra financial aid.
“If I had to worry about money issues, it would’ve made it (school) a lot more stressful,” said 26-year-old Quock, who is majoring in ecology and systematic biology.
The goal of the project is to provide as many scholarships as possible for students in the next two years with Nava’s new Students First campaign.
To combat escalating tuition costs, the campaign aims to raise funds from private donors in order to help fund students, Nava said.
“It was developed to generate private support,” he said. “It’s philanthropy basically to help augment our school through scholarships.”
The campaign has collected nearly $5 million since 2011 and there is a goal of reaching $12 million in a two-year span ending December 2014.
Donations received in the campaign thus far have come from alumni, parents, professors and nonprofits. Companies such as the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation; Genentech Foundation for Biomedical Sciences and Follett Higher Education Group, which also manages the campus Bookstore, have all donated.
“The funds are applied the way the donor intended. A hundred percent of the gift goes to the scholarship. There is no administrative fee,” Nava said, explaining that no third party takes a portion of the scholarship.
There are two kinds of donations the people can make — gifts and endowments. Gifts are immediate and are given away on a one-time basis, while endowments are large donations placed in the stock market with small portions of the amount distributed every year to qualified students.
University President Leslie E. Wong and his wife have established their own endowment and have made it clear that they want supplemental fundraising for students, according to Nava.
“(He has) sent a wonderful message to the community and I think it’s a good message for other campus leaders as well,” Nava said.
A big part of the campaign strategy is to get alumni highly involved by “connecting or reconnecting (them) back to the University.” The campaign will provide immediate scholarship funds, but is also part of an even larger plan.
Nava states that this program is actually the foundation for a bigger, even more comprehensive campaign that is expected to pull in between $150 to $200 million.
It will also attempt to get alumni more involved and connected to the school with the idea that they will make additional donations as a result.
Private schools receive a larger proportion of donations from alumni than their public counterparts, Nava said, citing University of Southern California and Harvard University as examples.
Building greater connections with alumni has led to increased capital for other California State University systems. According to Cal State Fullerton’s University of Advancement website, the alumni association grew 10 percent, leading to a direct increase in the alumni scholarship.
San Diego State received $71.5 million in donations in the year 2011-12, with more than 38,000 donors contributing to the campaign and $40 million going toward student scholarships and 16 percent of alumni making donations.
In comparison, since the Students First student support campaign began in January, almost $5 million has been taken in from donors ranging from parents to alumni to philanthropic organizations.
The official news release states that donations will go toward “merit- and need-based scholarships, graduate fellowships and student awards.”
Austin Stanley, a broadcast and electronic communication arts major, is unclear on the merit qualification.
“I’m fine with someone getting helped by donors if they really need it, but merit is too general of a term,” Stanley, 21, said. “Yeah, I mean I could also see it being dean’s list students or ones who reach a set GPA. I feel like they would want or have to advertise that so it could help explain why some people are getting help and others aren’t. Unless the students aren’t aware that they are receiving the money and it just gets factored into other financial aid without them knowing.”
Kayla Douglas, 21-year-old health major, said she is OK with receiving donations for funds, even though she knows some are skeptical about receiving money from private donors, because it is not always clear on how they got the donations.
“But it’s one step better than where we were at,” Douglas added.
Nava said he also thinks the University needs to do a better job of getting that information out to students.
“We want students to be successful. We want to generate money,” Nava said.