When the Galveston College Foundation was formed in 1996, one of the main goals was to make sure that every graduate from high school, GED or home schooling in the Galveston school district would be able to the college for two years tuition free.

According to Roland Bassett, chairman of the Foundation board of directors, there were several reasons for wanting to provide the tuition support, including giving students more reasons to stay in school and out of trouble, to help the economy by increasing the skill level of local residents, to encourage people to remain in the community instead of moving away and to reduce the debt level of students at the community college.

So the foundation set out to raise the money. In 2001, the Universal Access Scholarship was providing support for students from a $3.1 million endowment.

There were a few donors who could give larger amounts but the most of the money was raised by a large number of donors, local families and businesses, contributing what they could.

Given the downturn in the economy and the lower return on investments, the award amount had to be reduced from two years of tuition to a maximum of $2,400. The cost of tuition and fees for two years of full time attendance is approximately $4,200.

Despite the reduction in the maximum scholarship there, is a $50,000 shortfall each year between what the endowment is paying out and the cost to provide the scholarship. The college has been able to fill the gap each year with fundraising events.

It’s time for the Galveston community to chip in to increase the endowment. With a large-enough endowment, tuition assistance could be raised back to the cost of two years of attendance.

It might be possible to increase the amount provided toward book purchases or to expand the range of what can be paid for, including advanced placement and dual credit courses provided in cooperation with local high schools. Donations are tax deductible.

If we all donate what we can afford, it will benefit the whole community. It’s also likely to directly benefit your family and neighbors. Around 37 percent of local graduates attend Galveston College.

Another reason to increase the endowment for the scholarship is the political instability of Pell Grant funding.

According to Ron Crumedy, director of financial aid at Galveston College, this year 182 students have received Universal Access support, with a total of $104,512 being awarded, while 1,586 students have received the Pell Grant with a total of $2,932,780 being awarded.

Despite the challenges from the downturn in the economy, the college hopes to serve more students.

Joe Huff, director of public affairs at Galveston College, said that increased use of the Universal Access Scholarship is “a challenge we’d welcome.”

Maria Tripovich, director of development at the college, asks that the community help spread the word about what the college has to offer students in terms of courses and financial assistance by discussing it with their neighbors, in their churches and by liking the Facebook page she is developing for the scholarship.

It is possible that families still don’t know about universal access, particularly if they are home schooling their children.

Information about the Universal Access Scholarship and other ways to pay for college can be found at www.gc.edu/gc/Universal_Access1.asp.

Donations can be made by contacting the development office at www.gc.edu/gc/Donate_Now.asp.

Ken McGrew of Galveston is the author of “Education’s Prisoners: Schooling, the Political Economy, and the Prison Industrial Complex.”

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