The College of Liberal Studies has been awarded a $1 million endowment and a $50,000 bridge grant from The Bernard Osher Foundation in San Francisco, Calif., to continue the Osher Reentry Student Scholarship program permanently, something the college has been working toward since receiving the first grant in 2008.
Reentry students, those who have attempted college and are now attempting to return after at least five years, comprise a large number of CLS students. The Osher Reentry Scholarships are designed to help reentry students (ideally aged 25 to 50) complete their first undergraduate degree.
“We of course are very pleased with this endowment,” said James Pappas, vice president for Outreach and dean of the College of Liberal Studies. “We are grateful to The Bernard Osher Foundation for its confidence in the University of Oklahoma, and we are happy to be able to extend this scholarship to all eligible reentry students at OU. The bridge grant of $50,000 will enable us to continue providing scholarships during 2012-13 while the endowment interest accumulates.”
Receiving the endowment is exciting because now CLS can do earlier planning for the scholarship instead of waiting to learn if the college received the annual grant, according to Missy Mitchell, CLS special events and scholarship coordinator.
The Reentry Student Scholarship endowment is the second $1 million endowment awarded to University Outreach. The first was awarded in 2010 to endow OU’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a noncredit educational program for senior adults.
A minimum of 20 reentry student scholarships are awarded each academic year to undergraduate students enrolled at any OU site, including OU-Norman, Oklahoma City Community College, Rose State College, OU-Tulsa, Ponca City and Lawton/Ft. Sill. The scholarship is awarded as a tuition waiver to the student’s bursar account, and students are eligible to apply each semester.
CLS received 125 applications for the scholarship program in 2011-12, and 37 scholarships totaling $43,445 were awarded during the fall and spring. The remainder of the $50,000 scholarship fund will be awarded to students enrolled in summer courses.
Criteria students must meet to apply include: minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA in previous coursework; a cumulative gap of at least five years out of school from the time a student began undergraduate studies until present; at least 50% of the awarding semester’s enrollment or at least 50% of the sum of previous OU enrollment, including the awarding semester, is in on-site or hybrid coursework; demonstration of academic promise and commitment to obtaining an undergraduate degree; demonstration of financial need and participation in the workforce following graduation.
Many recipients of Osher Reentry Student Scholarships have expressed the positive impact it has had on their lives. One student said the scholarship gave her confidence, inspired her and made her feel like she belonged on campus.
“It reminded me that education has no age limit and older students are worthy of every opportunity available to traditional students,” the scholarship recipient said.
The Bernard Osher Foundation was founded in 1977 and seeks to improve quality of life through support for higher education and the arts. Along with offering scholarships, the foundation supports a national lifelong learning network for seasoned adults, benefits programs in integrative medicine in the United States and Sweden and provides arts and educational programs in the San Francisco Bay area and the state of Maine.