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Community colleges create $67.7-million scholarship fund

The California Community Colleges have created a $67.7-million scholarship fund to provide financial support for thousands of students annually.

The scholarship endowment is the culmination of a three-year fundraising campaign that began with a lead gift of $25 million from the Bernard Osher Foundation, which also promised to match a portion of the donations raised by the colleges. Since 2008, the state's 112 community colleges have raised $28.5 million, generating $14.2 million in matching dollars from the Osher Foundation.

The nearly $68-million endowment is the largest of any community college system's in the nation, according to officials.

It is also a spot of good news for California's struggling community colleges, which, like the University of California and Cal State University systems, have had to contend with state funding cuts that have forced course reductions and prevented thousands of students from obtaining classes.

This fall, fees for the state's community college students will increase from $26 to $36 per unit.

“At a time when community colleges continuously struggle to do more with fewer resources, this fund ensures that thousands of students every year will get the financial support they need,” the colleges'  chancellor, Jack Scott, said in a statement.

The Bernard Osher Foundation was established in 1977 by its namesake, a San Francisco businessman and philanthropist. It supports higher education and the arts.

The endowment will be managed by the Foundation for California Community Colleges. According to the foundation, the 2.7 million students enrolled in community colleges are the state's neediest — with an annual median income for full-time students of $16,223.  One-quarter of full-time students have annual incomes of less than $5,544.

The scholarship fund will provide $1,000 to qualified students for textbooks, lab fees and other expenses. Awardees must meet financial criteria, including a fee waiver, and must have completed 24 units. An estimated 4,000 students annually will receive scholarships from the endowment.


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