Success By Degrees | The Scholarship America Blog

Success By Degrees: Scholarship America Blog for Students, Parents, Educators and Supporters

February 4, 2019
There’s no way around it: Americans are drowning in student loan debt. Collectively, we owe $1.5 trillion, and continually rising college costs mean that number isn’t likely to drop much in the next few decades. The average student borrower takes out around $26,000 in loans over the course of a bachelor’s degree—debt that is impossible to discharge in bankruptcy, difficult to have forgiven and increasingly unlikely to be fully repaid on schedule. Not every student takes on loan debt, and not every graduate struggles to get out of it. But the level of debt across the country is at crisis…
January 18, 2019
The line between “student” and “employee” has never been blurrier than it is in 2019. Over the past four decades in the United States, the workforce and the college population have converged like never before. More than half of all college students now hold down jobs while attending school full time. Nearly half of all community college attendees are already employed when they start school, and 76 percent of graduate students are working at least 30 hours per week. What’s more, the average age of both undergrads and graduate students is rising, thanks in part to higher costs and increased student work hours. Nearly 40 percent…
January 4, 2019
Growing up in a single-parent family in Guadalajara, Mexico, Christian Urrea had no idea that immigration to the United States with his mother when he was eight years old was just the start of his long journey to a better life. As an undocumented minor, Christian faced language, cultural and financial struggles. Though he’d studied English in school in Mexico, he remembers feeling overwhelmed in his first all-English class in elementary school in Aurora, Ilinois, a suburb of Chicago. Every night after school, he read books and sang along to pop songs to improve his fluency. “Listening to music is…
December 28, 2018
Since our founding 60 years ago, Scholarship America has had a singular focus on supporting the dreams and aspirations of bright minds, no matter what their circumstances and obstacles might be. From our beginnings as a community scholarship drive in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1958, we have grown to become the nation’s largest private scholarship provider. We have distributed more than $4 billion to more than 2.4 million students. We are driven to ensure that any student pursuing higher education receives the support they need. We make students’ dreams possible.
December 21, 2018
As 2018 draws to a close, we’re excited to look back on some major milestones in Scholarship America’s history. This year, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of our founding in 1958, when Fall River, Massachusetts optometrist Irving Fradkin had a simple but world-changing idea: if an entire community came together, even small donations could turn into significant support for college-bound students. That idea has been the basis of our work for the last six decades. Twenty years ago, in 1998, we came together with our fellow national scholarship providers to start National Scholarship Month: a celebration of student support in all…
December 12, 2018
Amanda Condon was a member of the 2016 class of Scholarship America Dream Award recipients. We are proud to publish this guest post from Amanda, letting us know where she is now—and what great things she's doing.
December 4, 2018
When it comes to providing scholarships, there are three major questions to answer. In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the “why” element—determining what you truly want to accomplish by awarding a scholarship. In Part 2, we delved into the “how,” looking at ways to identify the students who need your help. In this final installment, we’ll take a closer look at the “what”—that is, what to look for in your recipients, and what exactly your scholarship program should provide to give them the best chance of success.
November 27, 2018
An only child and a smart, well-rounded student growing up in New Orleans, Jacoby Barry developed important life skills that helped him thrive inside and outside the classroom. He excelled academically in math and science, completed AP and honor classes, but also had a passion for playing basketball and was a team captain. “Playing basketball taught me resilience, toughness, dedication, and teamwork,” said Jacoby. “It takes practice to improve and compete. Math came easy for me as a child. I viewed it as a puzzle to solve. Other subjects like English required more effort. My competitive spirit helped me work…
November 21, 2018
There are as many unique scholarship programs as there are sponsors, but the ones that make a truly life-changing impact have a few things in common. In Part 1 of this series, we discussed “finding your ‘why’—digging into the problems you want to solve and the stories that motivate you to give a scholarship. Answering that question is the first step toward developing a truly inspiring program. Today, we’ll look at step two: getting a deeper understanding of the students you hope to serve.
November 8, 2018
If you’re considering creating a scholarship program, here’s one way to start thinking of the design: if I put a chair in front of you and asked who was sitting in the chair as you design your program, who occupies that chair? Is it your donor, a community member, a board member—or is it the student? Are you asking questions such as what does the donor want, or what does the board want? Or are you asking who are the students in my community, and what do they need to be successful? Designing a scholarship program takes real, thoughtful work…
October 30, 2018
Born and raised in the United States to Mexican immigrant parents, Jacqueline (Jackie) Vela has often served as a translator. Her father works in an industrial metal lab while her mother, despite suffering from chronic back pain, works at home raising their three children. As the eldest child, Jackie grew up helping with housework and caring for her younger sisters—including her youngest sibling, who has autism and does not speak.
October 22, 2018
Everyone knows what a scholarship is. It’s free, no-strings-attached money to help a student pay for their higher education. Right? Usually. But not always. In some cases, there are significant strings attached—including a few situations in which scholarship funds may be treated as taxable income. While it’s unusual, it’s also important for both students and scholarship providers to know how this can happen, and how it can be avoided.
October 12, 2018
I was 12 years old when I lost my dad in the September 11 attacks. He was a firefighter who died running into the Twin Towers to save others. I lost my hero that day. I knew I would never again have that moment when my dad would look at me and say “I’m so proud.”  After losing him, I felt insecure about my capabilities. I struggled through school. I had no idea what I was going to do in life, and I definitely didn’t think I could go to college.
October 5, 2018
Discussions about financial aid and student support tend to focus on big costs, big numbers and big trends: skyrocketing tuition; trillion-dollar student loan debt; and deep cuts in state aid to higher ed. But those conversations, important as they are, don’t tell the whole story. For millions of students, the struggle to get through college comes down to questions that are far more basic. Their educational success hinges on issues that most of us take for granted.
September 24, 2018
Roxanne "Rocky" Thompson has spent over 20 years volunteering her time and talents to the Swanville Dollars for Scholars chapter. The organization in the small Minnesota community of 350 has awarded over $630,000 in scholarships to local students since it was founded in 1987. Rocky’s contribution to Dollars for Scholars has been recognized with her selection as the 2018 Ralph “Cy” Seifert National Volunteer of the Year.
September 21, 2018
Scholarships are a vital piece of the financial aid puzzle. According to Sallie Mae’s most recent How America Pays for College report, nearly half of all families used scholarship aid when it came to paying for college—and scholarships and grants covered 35 percent of the total cost of higher education. That makes scholarship aid the single largest resource that families are using to pay for school. And it also means that, as scholarship providers, we need to ensure those millions of scholarship dollars are doing the most good.
September 13, 2018
Growing up in a small town in Mississippi in a single-parent household, Jaquaious (Jay) Little had limited access to resources and experienced lots of change. His mother and father broke up very early on in his life. His mother later married and divorced his stepfather when he was in first grade. She completed college with a degree in education and became a preschool teacher to support their family.
September 6, 2018
Kaylee Logan learned how to keep busy at a young age. She was playing roller hockey at age three and got involved with 4-H at age ten. That led to joining FFA as a teenager, and her passion for helping others and serving her community has only continued to grow.
August 30, 2018
It is a long road from a rough neighborhood in Savannah, Georgia to the executive suite, but that’s Chantel Lewis-Cummings’ path. When she was just two years old, Chantel's father was killed. She moved in with her grandmother in Savannah. A few years later her grandmother's health began to decline and she lost her job. With no income, they were evicted and had to move into Chantel's great-aunt's basement. That was when Chantel's mother, who had been away at school, moved home to help care for her mother and child.
August 21, 2018
There’s an old piece of wisdom that “being rich means you don’t have to think about money.” The source of that quote is long lost, but it remains as true as ever—and for too many students and families, the opposite is equally true. If you’re struggling with finances, money is never far from your mind. Higher education is a way out; unfortunately, the very financial stress students are trying to escape can make it harder to earn a degree. Can scholarships and support services help students break out of the cycle?