The Coon Rapids Community Scholarship Association has a May 1 deadline for raising money to provide scholarships for this year’s senior class at Coon Rapids High School.
And, according to Bruce Frank, volunteer executive director, funds are currently falling short of this year’s goal.
Indeed, since the economy went downhill in 2008, the association has found it difficult to raise enough funds to meet the demand, Frank said.
“There has been a steady decline in the money we have been able to raise since 2008,” he said.
In 2011, $147,000 was given out for scholarships.
There have been 147 applications for scholarships from this year’s senior class, Frank said.
That number is down from prior years, a reflection of the declining enrollment at Coon Rapids High School, he said.
But with the cost of tuition continuing to increase at both public and private colleges and universities, scholarship dollars don’t go as far as they used to, Frank said.
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.
But with the cost of tuition continuing to increase at both public and private colleges and universities, scholarship dollars don’t go as far as they used to, he said.
“There is added pressure on the association to provide more scholarship money,” Frank said.
Indeed, back in the 1980s the association would give $50 to $100 minimum scholarships; but the 1990s that had risen to $300, according to Frank.
“Now our minimum is $550,” Frank said.
In delving through the association records, Frank has found that more and more students receiving association scholarships are going to public colleges/universities rather than private.
“It costs around $20,000 in tuition a semester at many private colleges,” he said. “That does not include room, board and books.”
In the 1990s, a majority of Coon Rapids High School students receiving scholarships, 65 percent, went to public post-secondary institutions, with 35 percent attending private colleges/universities, Frank said.
That disparity has increased since then. Of the CRCSA scholarship recipients in 2011, 78 percent went to public colleges/universities, Frank said.
“That tells us the population has been shifting as well as the impact of the economy,” he said.
The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and Anoka-Ramsey Community College are the top two post-secondary institutions chosen by CRCSA scholarship recipients, according to Frank.
Anoka-Ramsey has one of the lowest tuition costs of any four- or two-year college/university in the state, Frank said.
While there has been a welcome influx of alumni making scholarship donations, the association has lost some of its larger institutional and business donors, he said.
But he said one avenue potential donors can pursue is matching grants from their employer foundations, Frank said.
“We will do all the paperwork that is involved and we have four or five in progress right now,” he said.
Memorials have been and continue to be a source of scholarship money to the association – people donating in memory of someone who has part of the high school, a teacher, administrator or a student, Frank said.
For example, he said donations have come in every year for a memorial scholarship set up in 1991 in the name of the late Edith Fraser, who was a longtime librarian at Coon Rapids High School.
But interest rates on those memorial scholarship investments have declined in recent years, having a negative impact on the scholarship amounts, according to Frank.
In addition, contributions are also received in the form of anniversary or birthday gifts from people who choose not to give material gifts, Frank said.
“We are grateful for any amount,” he said.
Contributions of $50 and up will be recognized in the program for the high school’s Senior Recognition Night at Coon Rapids High School Wednesday May 30 when the CRCSA scholarships will be presented, as well as at the graduation ceremony at Mariucci Arena on the University of Minnesota campus Sunday, June 3, 1 p.m., according to Frank.
Frank has been involved with the scholarship association since 1997, including many years as president and now as volunteer executive director.
For him, the importance of the efforts each year by CRCSA is brought home to him by former scholarship recipients who he meets and thank him for the scholarship they were awarded by the association, Frank said.
“It is heartwarming and humbling,” he said.
Donations to the scholarship association can be sent to CRCSA, P.O. Box, 48144, Coon Rapids, MN 55448.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]