The annual fund-raising drive to provide scholarships for the 2012 graduating class at Coon Rapids High School is in full swing.
The Coon Rapids Community Scholarship Association, which has been awarding scholarships to seniors since the high school opened in 1966, launched its 2012 drive March 1.
Letters were sent out to businesses, organizations, groups and individuals seeking donations for the class of 2012.
April will be proclaimed scholarship month in Coon Rapids by Mayor Tim Howe with the scholarships being presented at Senior Recognition Night at the high school May 30.
But the economic downturn of recent years has made it more difficult for the association to collect money for scholarships, according to Bruce Frank, executive director of the association.
Frank has been involved with the association since 1977, for many years as its president and most recently as its volunteer executive director.
Last year the association raised $147,000 and awarded 174 scholarships for seniors in the 2011 graduating class, Frank said.
In the years immediately before the recession, the association had been able to raise close to $200,000 a year and give out more scholarships.
“The recession has had a very negative impact,” Frank said.
And at the same time, tuition at both public and private universities and colleges has continued to rise, he said.
Part of the problem, at least for public universities and colleges, has been cuts in higher education funding by the Minnesota Legislature, Frank said.
Frank gave examples of tuition only increases at three public universities/college and one private college from the 2010-11 to 2011-12 academic year for students taking 15 credits for less.
• University of Minnesota: $4,768 for one semester (there are two semesters in the academic year) in 2010-11, $5,820 in 2011-12.
• Anoka-Ramsey Community College: 1,901.59 in 2010-11, $2,167.39 in 2011-12.
• Anoka Technical College: $4,546 in 2010-11, $4,817 in 2011-12.
• Bethel University: $14,660 in 2010-11, $15,350 in 2011-12.
From a historical perspective, 15 years ago, there was a 50-50 split between seniors receiving association scholarships attending private and public colleges and universities, now 80 percent go to public universities and colleges, according to Frank.
“The dollars we raise don’t go as far as before,” Frank said.
No matter the size of the donation, “every little bit helps,” he said.
Indeed, in recent years, donations by Coon Rapids High School alumni have become an integral part of the scholarships association’s fund-raising efforts, Frank said.
“We have been receiving lots of support from alumni and we certainly appreciate their support,” he said.
In addition, memorial scholarships have been set up to remember people in both the community and school, Frank said.
There’s a new memorial scholarship this year in memory of Dennis Ochsner, retired Coon Rapids High School counselor who died last year, according to Frank.
“Dennis was very involved in the scholarship association during his years at the high school,” Frank said.
And there have been instances where people have made a gift to the association instead of giving a material anniversary gift to themselves, he said.
The scholarships that seniors receive from the association do make a difference in their futures and their lives, Frank said.
In his years with the association, Frank has received thanks from many scholarship recipients telling him that, he said.
Donations of $50 or more are listed in both the Senior Recognition Night and the high school graduation programs, Frank said.
The fund drive runs through May 1 after which members of the scholarship association meets to determine how many scholarships it can award based on the amount of money that has come in.
According to Frank, scholarships are not awarded based on financial need.
Rather, the applications from students, which are handled anonymously by association members, are ranked two-thirds based on academic accomplishments over their four years at the high school and one-third for the students involvement in school and community activities, for example volunteer work, Frank said.
To make a donation, send a check to CRCSA, P.O. Box 48144, Coon Rapids, MN 55448.
The association is a 501c3 corporation, so donations are deductible, Frank said.
The association meets the first Monday of the month at the high school in Room 211 at 7 p.m.
It is always seeking people to volunteer their time, Frank said.
Back in 1977 when Frank joined the association, there were some 35 people involved; now the base has dwindled to a dozen, he said.
“We don’t have the people power,” Frank said.
Scholarships are awarded for education at a four- year private, public college or university, community college, technical college or an accredited professional school.
Since it began in 1966, the association has awarded a total of $2,532,430 to 4,337 students.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]