Scholarships crucial educating future leaders

By Lynette L. Marshall / Guest Editorial

Rachel Revelez is the first person in her family to attend college. As a young girl, the West Liberty native would drive by the University of Iowa campus with her parents, and they would tell her, “That’s where you’ll go someday.” Thanks to scholarship support, their dreams for her came true.

Rachel now is a UI junior majoring in elementary education, and she is the recipient of a number of student scholarships that have helped make it possible for her to study at the UI.

There is no doubt that, for Rachel and many other UI students, receiving a scholarship truly is a life-altering experience. In fact, nearly 80 percent of students attending the University of Iowa receive some form of financial aid—including grants, scholarships, loans and student employment—and each year, the UI offers thousands of scholarships based on academic merit, financial need or both.

In my role as president and CEO of the University of Iowa Foundation, I’ve seen, firsthand, how student scholarships change lives. That’s why it’s among the foundation’s most important priorities to raise the funds that will help the University of Iowa sustain its strong legacy of student success and support.

Educating tomorrow’s leaders means equipping today’s students with both “roots and wings”—as the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hodding Carter once said. If students are to take flight in the future, they must start with the kind of firm educational grounding they will find at the University of Iowa. When they enroll here, they are doing much more than simply preparing for a career. They also are discovering new skills and talents, expanding their intellectual and cultural horizons and learning how to contribute to the communities in which they live.

Scholarships, based on both need and merit, play a crucial role in making this happen. Nationwide, the costs of providing a quality education keep increasing, and this is true at the University of Iowa as well. We at the foundation are working to help the university offset these rising costs by raising even more student-aid resources—and we are grateful to the visionary alumni and friends who invest in this mission.

In 2011-2012, the UI awarded nearly $110 million in scholarship support, with more than 28 percent of that coming from charitable gifts. During that year, 806 undergraduate students from Iowa received scholarships that were funded by gifts from contributors, and generous donors created 64 new student-scholarship funds at the UI.

All of these resources are central to the university’s efforts to attract a talented, diverse student body from Iowa and beyond. Recently, UI President Sally Mason announced a new program that will double the impact of scholarship funds created during the next five years. “Golden Pledge: A Presidential Partnership for Student Success” will match the payout from newly created endowed scholarship funds of $100,000 or more. The program will run through December 2017 and is designed to significantly increase the number of merit- and need-based scholarships for undergraduate students at Iowa. As of February 1, 2013, this new initiative already had raised more than $2.1 million.

Rini Kasinathan understands the impact of such resources. She is a senior from Sioux Falls, S.D., who is majoring in biochemistry and plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. degree when she graduates. Rini is a Presidential Scholar, and she is one of many bright and deserving UI students who have benefited from donors’ generosity. A member of the foundation’s Student Philanthropy Group—which gives undergraduate students the chance to learn about, and promote, philanthropy on campus—she testified to the value of the private scholarship assistance she’s received in a guest column for the spring 2012 issue of the foundation’s Advancing Iowa newsletter. She wrote, “The education I received at the University of Iowa has been invaluable and would have been inaccessible to me without private support . . . here, I’ve discovered my passion for research.”

Helping students discover and pursue their passions—whether they want to focus on research or, in Rachel Revelez’s case, teaching—is the most important function any educational institution can fulfill. I am proud of our remarkable university, and of its charitable alumni and friends, for believing in students such as Rachel and Rini—and for giving them the resources they need to soar.


Lynette L. Marshall is president and CEO of the University of Iowa Foundation