Each spring, the VCU School of Business Undergraduate Scholarship Application opens to current students seeking tuition support for the following year. And each spring, the number of high-achieving applicants far exceeds funds available.
In 2017, that gap started to close when trustees stepped up to create the School of Business Foundation PLUS Scholarship Fund to support students who are highly engaged, demonstrate financial need and may not have received funding through the school’s competitive scholarship process.
A "Saving Grace"
“Often, people think of scholarships as big awards covering full tuition. Those are wonderful, of course, but even a modest scholarship can make a world of difference to a student in need,” says Ginny Wagg, undergraduate recruitment manager, who oversees administration of the school’s scholarship awards process.
In the first year, seventeen PLUS scholarships were awarded. Ten students (who otherwise would not have any funding) received $1,500 each. Seven more got partial funding to bring their original awards up to $1,500.
Such awards go a long way towards meeting basic needs like rent. They can help a student stay in school, or provide the flexibility to take a lower-paying internship versus more lucrative part-time jobs that don’t contribute to career development.
"Receiving the PLUS scholarship was my saving grace," reported recipient Courtney Williams. "Disappointed that I did not receive an upperclassman scholarship my junior year, I was afraid that I might need to leave VCU. However, this award was confirmation that I was exactly where I needed to be and I had a support system of people who were willing to make a generous gift in order to help me make my dream of graduating real."
Impressive Student Outcomes
The name PLUS reflects both the boost the funds provide and the character of the recipients:
P – Passionate determination to complete a business degree
L – Leadership in the classroom
U – Undergraduate student
S – Scholastic excellence
One year later, the first PLUS scholars have lived up to these ideals. Seven graduated, and the rest have maintained an average GPA of 3.62 while continuing to make strong leadership contributions. Three were recognized as Dean’s Scholars for their outstanding classroom performance. One graduated with Business and University Honors and was also the Management Department Student of the Year. One was the Davis Ratcliffe Insurance Award winner, and another the Information Systems Department Student of the Year.
Courtney Williams went on to receive the prestigious Charles G. Thalhimer Family scholarship, awarded to the top undergraduate for their senior year. Her leadership includes serving as a Business Student Ambassador. She will graduate in May.
Building an Endowment
“It warms my heart that so many board members, alums and others have stepped up to the plate to help establish the PLUS Scholarship Fund for very accomplished students. These students need one final break to get them over the finish line to graduation. That's what the PLUS Scholarship does,” said School of Business Foundation Chair Tom Snead (ACCT ’76.)
The initial scholarships were so successful that an endowment has been established to keep the fund going in perpetuity. "I hope many more alumni and friends will join us in building up. Together, we can close the perennial scholarship gap. This a wonderful thing - to help students so they don't have to drop out of school.”
To contribute to the PLUS Scholarship Fund as part of the Make it real campaign, contact Shannon Duvall at (804) 828-1035 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or give online.