As Excelsior looks to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021, the College honors that milestone in a way that fulfills its promise of putting students first. The College has launched a major fundraising effort, ELEVATE: The Campaign for Student Scholarships. The campaign is dedicated entirely to providing more financial support to Excelsior students — thus lifting them up and supporting the success of the College’s mission.
“We can think of no better way to honor our mission than to ensure that more students than ever before have the financial support they need to take advantage of what Excelsior College offers,” said Helen Benjamin, chair of the board of trustees. Benjamin joins president David Schejbal, former president James N. Baldwin, several other trustees, and Excelsior staff on the campaign committee.
“This scholarship not only helped me see my future more clearly, but also helped lessen the burden of financial stress during already stressful times. I hope you’re able to continue giving this scholarship to help more students in the future.” –Brooklin (Rutherford) Gilbert of Capon Bridge, West Virginia
The Cost of Getting Ahead
In researching the feasibility of a campaign dedicated to funding scholarships, the campaign committee evaluated the significant investment that students make to earn their degrees. One undergraduate course costs about $1,500, while a graduate-level course is about $2,000. During the average three years to completion, a student will spend about $15,000.
Of course, many undergraduate students are eligible for financial aid, and most of the 49 percent of Excelsior students who are veterans or active military servicemembers receive a tuition benefit. Students affiliated with the College’s academic, association, and corporate partners also receive tuition benefits. But every year, there is unmet financial need among students — and who knows how many adults are deterred entirely from pursuing their degree because of financial concerns. Although Excelsior was able to give scholarships to 499 students in 2019–20, totaling $209,531, there were still students with unmet need.
Leading by Example
The campaign was jump-started by the board of trustees, the College’s governing body comprising talented and experienced leaders from across the United States. These individuals volunteer their time to steward Excelsior because they believe so strongly in its mission and model — which was innovative from the start and has proven just how relevant its online education model is to the future of higher education.
The ELEVATE campaign seeks to raise $750,000 for student scholarships. This is a far higher goal than any other fundraising effort at Excelsior — but then, the College has never reached a 50-year milestone before and has so much to celebrate. Other colleges have been imperiled, first by trends in higher education and then by the COVID-19 pandemic, but Excelsior has continued to capitalize on its skills in distance learning and is stronger than ever.
To show their confidence in Excelsior and their commitment to the ELEVATE campaign, the trustees have already pledged more than $100,000 in leadership gifts.
Paying It Forward Pays Dividends
Scholarships assist, or elevate, students in several ways. Not only does a scholarship improve a student’s financial situation, but also it boosts their confidence and resolve, thus increasing their chances of completing their degree. Scholarships have helped Excelsior students to cross the finish line in their course work to achieve degree completion and graduate.
Students have expressed that receiving a scholarship means more than the money; it shows them that someone believes in them and wants them to succeed, and it also makes them feel more connected to the College.
Student Joshua Lawson of Columbus, Ohio, a father raising two young children with autism and working full-time, expressed it best in his thank-you letter:
“This scholarship has shown me that someone out there is watching. It makes me feel like a part of the Excelsior community and makes me feel recognized for the hardships of attending school. I am not sure that I have all the words for really expressing how valuable this is to me. All I can say is thank you.”
He went on to add, “I appreciate the aid, as well as the message that comes with it, and I will strive to use this scholarship as motivation to try my best as I continue my schooling at Excelsior, as well as ensure that your investment is not wasted.”
Student Keiry Vargas of Bronx, New York, has worked in human resources for more than a decade but, despite excellent performance and professional development, was unable to advance. She decided to earn the degree she needed through Excelsior so that she could secure a position that better compensates her for her experience and education. In her scholarship thank-you letter, she said:
“It has not always been easy to continue my education and be there for my kids, but I am determined more than ever to get the degree I’ve always dreamed of. Thanks to my donors, I am able to fulfill this goal of achieving my degree and making my daughters proud.”
Vargas is taking her final course this fall and says that, because she has had such a great experience at the College, she is now thinking of continuing on for her master’s degree from Excelsior. She has also referred a handful of people to Excelsior, three of whom have already enrolled.
Looking Forward, Aiming Upward
The ELEVATE campaign was announced to the College community in September 2020 and will run concurrently with Excelsior’s 50th anniversary celebration through June 2022. Alumni, students, and the entire college community are invited to share success stories and memories.
Members of the Excelsior College community can connect on social media with #ElevatedbyExcelsior and have the opportunity to pledge support to student scholarships at excelsior.edu/elevate.
Scholarships Help Students Overcome Obstacles
Military spouse Leah Jackson of Tucson, Arizona, was single-parenting her children while her husband was deployed, caring for her seriously ill mother, and working full-time as a licensed practical nurse – but she refused to give up on her commitment to going back to school.
She took two classes per term (and maintained As in both) on her quest to earn her degree and move one step closer to her dream of becoming a registered nurse. Then she incurred some expenses with her mother’s care and wasn’t sure how she was going to pay for the next term.
“I was at a loss for words when I heard that I would be receiving a scholarship,” she said in her thank-you letter. “To say this is an answered prayer is an understatement. I cannot express the burden that you have lifted off me and my family with your generous gift. Thank you so very much.”
Jackson and her family have since been deployed to a NATO base in Germany, but she has continued her studies through Excelsior. Fortunately, her mother recovered and is in remission, and she and her two boys, ages 7 and 11, do their schooling remotely.
“The flexibility of online learning and the financial support of the scholarship allowed me to continue working on my degree despite moving to a new country and dealing with the pandemic,” said Jackson, who is now only the Capstone course away from completing her bachelor’s in health care management.