Local support for scholarships continues to rise


But rising costs of tuition means more support is needed

Oct. 23, 2019 – For the first time beginning this year, Siuslaw High School seniors will be using a common scholarship application to apply for many local scholarships. Developed by Western Lane Community Foundation, Siuslaw Vision and the counseling and ASPIRE offices at Siuslaw High School, the Siuslaw Regional Scholarship Application became a necessity as the number and total dollar amount of local scholarships has increased steadily over the past six years.

Another big change as a result of the growing number of scholarship providers is that the venue for the annual Scholarship Awards Night has been moved from the high school gym to the Florence Events Center to accommodate the number of scholarship recipients and their families.

The growth in the number of students receiving awards, the number of scholarship providers and number of individual scholarships awarded has been remarkable,” said ASPIRE team leader Bob Orr.

In the spring of 2014, just 20 graduating seniors received awards compared to 2019, which saw 51 awards. During that same period of time, the number of scholarship providers doubled from 24 to 50 while the number of individual awards increased from 89 to 150. 

According to Orr, the most impressive growth has been in the total dollar amount of local scholarships awarded. In 2013, $86,000 was distributed to students from local individuals and organizations. By the time of the awards ceremony last May, that number had grown to $245,000 — nearly triple the 2013 amount. Steve Moser, ASPIRE site coordinator at Siuslaw High School, said the growth has resulted from the generosity of businesses, service organizations, individuals and foundations in the community.

“It also represents the generous support of many local citizens who participate in fundraising efforts and events throughout the year,” Moser said.

Despite the growth in number of awards and dollar amounts, Moser and Orr were quick to point out that available scholarships are not sufficient to meet the needs of all Siuslaw students who wish to attend college. There are two key reasons for this.

“First,” according to Moser, “the costs of college tuition and other expenses have risen faster than inflation, so it has been necessary for scholarship awards to grow just to keep up with costs.”

Secondly, Moser said the median income for households in the Florence area is well below the state average — with many local families simply not having the means to pay for college even with scholarship help.

“Even if our students are able to get their first year of college paid through grants and scholarships, many of those scholarships cover only the first year and that leaves our students with insufficient financial support in the second, third, and fourth years of college,” added Orr. “We don’t want any student to leave college for financial reasons, but it happens.”

Which is why Moser and Orr continue to seek new scholarship providers in the community. “We want to talk with any interested individual or business about establishing a new scholarship fund,” said Orr. “Many people want to help our students while leaving a legacy that will carry on for years to come, and it’s easy to do through the establishment of a perpetual scholarship.” Likewise, businesses may wish to demonstrate community support and involvement through named scholarships.

“There are organizations already in place locally to make the process simple.”

The rewards of offering financial support to students are huge, according to Moser.

“One of the best events of the year is our Scholarship Awards Night each May, when we get to see the excitement of students who find that they will be able to attend college thanks to the support of our community,” Moser said. “It’s a wonderful event.”

Anyone interested in creating or contributing to a scholarship can contact Moser or Orr by calling 541-997-3448.

— Submitted story

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