I’m very pleased to share with you the news of Plymouth State University’s first $1 million gift. As exciting as it is to reach this milestone, I am even more pleased that this gift has come from a member of the PSU family.
John Morgridge ’85 and his wife, Carrie, have created a $1 million endowment to fund the Morgridge Family Opportunity Scholarship to provide scholarships to talented New Hampshire students. The funds, which will be received over a five-year period, will go into an endowment and the proceeds from the endowment will be distributed to students of academic promise who are eligible for the federal Pell Grant.
Our hope is that this new fund will assist students in bridging the gap between the cost of their education and the financial aid package that they receive based on family income, family size and other factors. Assisting students in filling this gap will result in lower debt loads for graduating seniors. The amount that students are borrowing is rising nationally, and PSU saw an increase of $2.2 million in student loans between academic years 2003-04 and 2004-05. Across the U.S. today, financial access to higher education is a critical issue. Federal financial aid, such as Pell Grants, go to the neediest qualifying applicants, but a Pell Grant awarded to a low-income student doesn’t come close to covering the cost of their college education. The Morgridge Family Opportunity Scholarship will help reduce the amount of additional cash or loan burden students have to assume to achieve their higher education goals.
In allocating the new scholarship fund, preference will be given to students from Grafton, Carroll, Belknap, Sullivan and Coos counties, and to students who are the first in their families to attend college. The grant will be renewable for students who maintain the required grade point average. The first semester that we anticipate having income from this endowment to allocate will be the fall of 2006. Using these guidelines, we anticipate having a good pool of eligible students. For example, our current first-year class, has 125 Pell-eligible students from Belknap, Coos, Grafton, Sullivan and Carroll counties. Seventy-five of these students are from the first generation in their families to attend college.
This new scholarship fund represents an extraordinary act of generosity by John and Carrie Morgridge, and an example of creative educational leadership at its finest. It will make a dramatic difference for many future PSU students who might otherwise not have the means to attend the University.
The need for creative solutions to assist students in paying for their education is not unique to Plymouth State University. Nationally, financial aid sources are shrinking, and tuitions are increasing due to a reduction in state funding to higher education. At PSU, we only receive 17 percent of our operating budget from the state, so we are dependent on tuition increases to manage the increasing cost of providing quality instruction.
This is a very complex financial issue for states, institutions and families. Some of us see only the problems, not the solutions. John and Carrie Morgridge were concerned about access to higher education and they reached out to the students of Plymouth State University, present and future, with a solution. We are grateful for their vision, their generosity and the fine example they have set for all of us.
Donald P. Wharton, President
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