Breaking Down Financial Barriers to College
Updated: Dec 15, 2021
We know our students are capable of anything they set their minds and hearts to. Yet the sad truth is that about one-third of first-generation students will quit college within the first three years (according to the Education Advisory Board). The number one reason they drop out? Financial burdens.
Bridges is working to decrease those burdens for students. Too often students are surprised by school fees or sidelined by a semester with extra-high textbook costs. Sometimes it is just a matter of a few hundred dollars that keeps a student from continuing in college.
Part of the Bridges College Planning curriculum is counseling students in financial aid and finding scholarships. Each student receives need and merit scholarships, and in the case of the 2021 high school graduates, seven students received full rides to their given colleges. Yet there are still too many Bridges students who have some sort of financial gap that threatens their academic retention.
With the realization that even a gap of a few hundred dollars can derail a student’s academic progress, Bridges committed to increasing scholarships with a 2021 fundraising campaign to raise $25,000 in honor of the non-profit’s 25th anniversary year. To sweeten the deal, the Jolley family challenged Bridges donors to a match: if $25,000 was raised before the end of the summer, they would match with a $25,000 gift of their own.
And we did it! Bridges donors came together to raise this money for students, and Jolley family matched. This scholarship fund will be used to help future Bridges students who are facing potentially detrimental financial gaps in their tuition.
What does a scholarship mean to a student? It can mean the difference between pursuing your dreams and returning to the cycle of poverty. One Bridges alumni and college graduate reflected on how close he came to giving up his dream until he received a scholarship funded by a Bridges donor: “Without it I don’t know what I would’ve done my last year of college. I was in a situation where I couldn’t afford a meal plan but I still had enough of a financial aid surplus to take the money and use that for my groceries all year. Without the scholarship I would not have been able to afford food.”
Another Bridges student shared, "there were times when I did not know how I was going to afford my tuition and afraid that I was not going to be able to finish on time. There were many sleepless nights and stressful days that were due to not having enough to pay for tuition.”
This student was awarded a scholarship funded by a Bridges donor and later graduated from Presbyterian College in four years. She added: “When I received a message from the Bridges to a Brighter Future program about your scholarship I just knew everything was going to be okay. This scholarship was definitely a blessing from God and I was so thankful to have received it."
A recent Wofford College graduate had similar thoughts regarding her donor-funded Bridges scholarship: “Without [it], I would not have been able to attend Wofford College. I am beyond blessed to have been selected. This scholarship has allowed me to be able to pursue my dream of becoming a surgeon without having to worry about my tuition.”
Below are more comments from college students who have received scholarships funds from Bridges donors over the past few years:
“[This scholarship] was really the hallmark reason I was able to attend any college in the first place, second only to the support I got from Bridges. It's honestly one of the biggest blessings I've been given. My family didn't have to choose between paying an essential bill and helping me pay for school costs."
“[This scholarship] gave me the opportunity to excel in my academics and allowed me to further my education. I hope one day not only to make a difference in the community but to change a child's life by giving back through education and my life experiences.”
“It has been a huge help as I know many people would like this opportunity and I was fortunate enough to get it. I will always do my best and I plan on finding a way of giving back to my community and to achieve my dream. I cannot express how thankful I am!”
“Receiving this scholarship was one of the most positive emotional impacts that have come to me.”
“I thought the entirety of my college career was going to consist of work and school and not have the college experience that I wished to have. Now thanks to you guys I can now live that dream and continue with a less stressful college career that I would originally have thought to be much worse.”
“[This scholarship] has honestly allowed me to chase my dream in becoming an engineer. Thank you for investing your time and money into me and believing me. I won’t take that for granted.”
So, what does a scholarship mean to a student? It means the world to them. If you would like to contribute to the Bridges scholarship fund, go to furman.edu/giving, select “Other” under designation, and enter “Bridges scholarship fund” in the comments section.