Friday, July 15, 2022
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
There are few watershed acts in the world of higher education that have resulted in truly win-win-win programs. Win for the “donor,” win for the students and win for society as a whole. Even the most animated opponents of such programs have ultimately joined the supporters and acknowledged the undisputed, impactful benefits. Programs such as the 160-year-old Morrill Act, signed by Abraham Lincoln, which resulted in the creation of American land-grant universities, or the 80-year-old GI Bill, which was promoted by the American Legion, and the 50-year-old Pell Grant program spearheaded by Senator Claiborne Pell.
Yes, the Pell Grant program is 50 years old. Since its creation, it has supported 80 million economically disadvantaged students and the federal government has recouped every dollar it has invested in Pell recipients in just six years after each student graduates. In the 2022 academic year alone, over 7 million students received Pell Grants, including 60 percent of students in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and 50 percent of Native American and Latino students. This wonderful program has enabled millions of students who otherwise would not have been able to attend college and participate in the American higher education experience. The result? The entrance of millions of graduates into the skilled workforce, a significant reduction of reliance on student loans, and a multiplier effect on the original investment through decades of increased income, resulting in increased tax payments.
Here at S&T, last academic year, 1,238 S&T students, or 21.7 percent of our undergraduates, received support through this program. A year earlier, 1,303 S&T students received Pell awards, for an average of $4,493, or roughly half the cost of a full year of in-state tuition.
The U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard reveals that the S&T alumni who benefited from federal financial aid outperform the national averages by significant margins. The graduation rates and mid-career salaries of these S&T students is higher than the national averages, and the average annual cost of attending S&T is lower. I would say this is a great return on investment for taxpayers!
In the same spirit of supporting our economically disadvantaged students, we have launched our need-based Kummer Vanguard Scholars program for students majoring in STEM disciplines. This program is a result of the generous $300 million gift from June and Fred Kummer, and it provides $1,000 to $3,000 annually to up to 500 first-year and transfer students. The financial support is instrumental, but just as important is the programming that comes with being a Kummer Vanguard Scholar. These students get to interact with successful S&T alumni and meet weekly with faculty and guest speakers to learn about entrepreneurship, innovation, research, leadership and community service, among other topics.
Last year was the inaugural year of the Kummer Vanguard Scholars program. The scholarship is renewable for eight semesters, and last year’s class will serve as mentors to this year’s scholars. I’m proud to report that 94% of the 460 students are returning to S&T this fall. This retention rate is nearly 9% higher than the university average.
Clearly, these win-win-win indispensable acts of generosity, public or private, have been force multipliers and life-enriching. Here at S&T we heed the results and take stock of the transformational impact of small and large programs and donations, and we say THANK YOU to our enabler donors and to the foresightfulness of our investment-minded national leaders.
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