We’re gratified that our readers have revived their commitment to our Students In Need fund drive, and as the 2021 campaign enters its home stretch we’d like to encourage you all to help us reach our goal.
Students In Need is a classic “hand up” program that helps local community college students help themselves. It raises money for the Lower Columbia College Student Success Fund, which makes small grants to students to pay personal and educational expenses that put them in danger of dropping out of school.
Since 2012, the Student Success Fund has made $466,000 in grants to nearly 890 students. The average award has been $526.
Keeping students in college is key to the well-being of our community, which is undereducated compared with most other parts of the state. Our shortage of college graduates is one reason this area struggles, both economically and socially. Better educating our work force must be a top priority as we start to climb out of the pandemic.
Unfortunately, the stresses of the pandemic have broadsided LCC enrollment, which was down 16.2% last month compared to March 2020, when COVID-19 entered our lives here. That’s 363 fewer FTEs (Full Time Equivalents) than a year ago. Male, Latino, students 24 years old and younger, and low-income students account for the largest share of the decline, according to the college.
Enrollment may have fallen even more had it not been for the Student Success Fund. Last April, for example, the college saw a huge surge in grant requests: Students asked for $30,000 for tuition, $12,000 for housing and rent, $2,000 for food, $2,000 for utilities and $3,500 for other needs. One college official called the need “staggering.”
Over the years, we’ve documented how the program has been a life-line for students. One such person was Kayla Curtis, a Longview resident whose low Running Start grades in high school torpedoed her LCC financial aid. A Student Success grant helped her stay at LCC. “The Student Success grant made me feel like people were supporting me and encouraged me to try harder,” Curtis said in 2017.
That same year, a Student Success grant covered a $172 tuition balance that Scott Houston owed to continue his quest for a welding degree and a route out of homelessness.
Contributing to TDN’s Students in Need campaign is a tangible way for you to help present and future students such as Kayla and Scott. All donations remain in the local community. The Daily News absorbs all costs of running the campaign, so every penny donated goes to the college.
In its first five years, Students In Need raised $187,817. The fundraiser also helped LCC meet its goal of a $1 million endowment for the Student Success Fund, so it can award at least $50,000 annually to students. The endowment is now at $1.1 million, and this year the LCC Foundation Board increased the amount of grants awarded to nearly $90,000 due to the pandemic.
This year’s donations to Students In Need are stronger than last year’s, when they nosedived due to the pandemic. As of Wednesday, the 2021 drive had collected just short of $11,500, more than double the amount tallied by the same date last year (just short of $5,400).
We’d like to make our goal of $30,000, but time is running out. The campaign closes May 9. Please consider giving, perhaps by donating part of that pandemic stimulus payment we are receiving. What a great way to stimulate the economy today and tomorrow!
Remember that you can donate online at http://tdn.com/students, or by sending a check to The Daily News, Attn: Students in Need, P.O. Box 1666, Longview, WA 98632.
The Daily News Editorial Board is comprised of General Manager David Cuddihy, Interim Editor Todd Krysiak, Features/Community Editor Nancy Edwards, and Copy Editor Ross Hight.