When Luanne Rotticci ’87 and Liza Jane MacNaughton ’90 saw news of the 10 percent CSU tuition fee increase in July, following other increases in previous years, they were, in MacNaughton’s words, “horrified.” They were also spurred to action.
As adult students 20 years ago, they’d seen first hand how hard their fellow students were working for their degrees, many balancing work and families and tight budgets. “I’d hate to see someone not be able to finish a degree because of the costs, and not be able to get out of school, get a job and really get going,” Rotticci said.
Knowing how difficult it can be to cover additional costs, the two alumnae established the “Save Our Students” Scholarship Fund to help undergraduate students struggling with the new higher costs of earning a college degree.
Working quickly, with help from CSUEB’s Office of Financial Aid and University Advancement staff, they were able to get scholarship awards directly to students by the start of the fall quarter.
According to Rhonda Johnson, executive director of financial aid, more than 150 students applied for SOS scholarships in September. Of those, 24 were selected to receive initial awards ranging from $500 to $1500 per student.
The alumnae were particularly concerned about students who may not be enrolling because of the cost increases. “Of course I understand this had to happen, because of the state government and budget, but we thought right away of all the students who might have to drop out because of it,” MacNaughton said.
Although all of the initial scholarship funds have been awarded, additional scholarships will be made available as more contributions arrive. Any gifts received by October 12 can be awarded to students before the next installment payment deadline.
In addition to making their own donations, Rotticci and MacNaughton sent letters to friends seeking additional support. University Advancement staff have also encouraged other donors to contribute to the fund. (Make a gift to the "SOS" fund now.)
With Rotticci and MacNaughton’s concerns in mind, priority was given to seniors and students demonstrating the greatest need. Ava Albano, a senior preparing to graduate with a degree in Health Sciences, said she did receive a loan for her last quarters at CSUEB, but after the tuition fee increase, the loan amount wasn’t enough to pay all of her costs.
Albano works part time on campus to help support her family, including an ill mother and a younger brother in high school. With this scholarship, she can pay the balance of her fall quarter fees and cover the cost of books.
“To see alumni doing so much to help us, especially graduating seniors, it’s wonderful and I’m so grateful,” Albano said.
Senior Thomas Rule, a philosophy major, has already received a scholarship offer to go on to graduate school. He works part time as a tutor at the university and has relied on loans and savings to cover his expenses. The SOS scholarship he received will help him graduate at the end of this quarter as planned without taking on additional debt, and go on to pursue his doctorate and his goal of becoming a university professor.
Both Rotticci and MacNaughton attended then-Cal State Hayward as part-time adult students; Rotticci earned a B.S. in business and kinesiology and MacNaughton earned a B.A. in Spanish. They went to classes with several other non-traditional students like themselves, who knew the value of higher education.
High costs can be a barrier to a college degree, but economic studies show that a college degree is key to professional success. College graduates have higher lifetime earnings and greater career opportunities. Without a degree, students’ job options are limited and less stable.
Working students still struggled with costs then, Rotticci said, “and even small amounts of money could be really very important.” That’s still true now, she said, which is why she hopes that even a small scholarship can keep students enrolled even as tuition fees increase.
But MacNaughton added that college attendance costs overall were more manageable at the time. “It was very affordable, even with a family,” she said. A full-time undergraduate education at a CSU now costs triple what it did 10 years ago.
For Annie Fowler, a returning adult student majoring in human development, the SOS scholarship will help support her as well as her young son. As a single mother, she struggled to meet their rising expenses after her student employment position was eliminated.
A college degree, she said, will provide a stronger future for her and her son. Fowler expects to graduate this year and is applying for CSUEB’s Master of Social Work program.
“I know how an extra $1,000 or $5,000 can really make a difference for someone,” Rotticci said. “I hope students can take advantage of this and keep fighting the good fight.”