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Shock the World Campaign
In This Issue

       

For students like Darrell Allison, the college dream hinges on scholarship aid


Give Something Back Founder Robert Carr, left, presented an oversized check for $1 million to WSU President John Bardo and WSU Foundation Vice President Keith Pickus.
At Wichita State, greater emphasis is being placed on need-based support.

The quote that most inspires WSU freshman Darrell Allison is from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Allison has faith he can make it at Wichita State, even though he doesn’t have a family that can provide financial support and he doesn’t know for certain where the money will come from. He tries not to stress about it, and instead, to keep moving forward.

“I’m always on the lookout for scholarships I might apply for,” says Allison, 19, who aspires to get a law degree and work in the entertainment industry someday. “I’m never quite sure I will have enough.”

It’s a dilemma many students face. They recognize the importance of having a college degree, they have dreams that only a degree can help them achieve, yet their personal resources don’t come close to covering tuition, books, housing, food and all the related costs of a college education.

That’s why scholarship support for high-need students is so important, says Sheelu Surender, director of financial aid for Wichita State. “It often fills the gap that limited federal and state resources can’t cover,” she says. “Many times, even something like not having money for books can be a tremendous barrier for students.”

About 42 percent of WSU undergraduate students qualify for Pell grants, Surender says. “However, a Pell grant is no longer enough to cover basic tuition costs, which means more and more students today are burdened with student loan debt and stressed out by their financial struggles,” she says.

Through new outreach strategies and expanded need-based opportunities, the Office of Financial Aid is working to connect with students like Allison to offer financial support. Recognizing this growing issue, WSU leaders last year adopted a five-year goal to provide an additional $700,000 annually in needs-based scholarships and related programming for low-income and underrepresented students.

Wichita State has been fortunate for many years to have alumni and friends who donate philanthropically to endow scholarships for WSU students. More and more, donors are specifying that financial need is a requirement for their scholarships because they see how students are struggling to afford college.

“Financial need is a big topic as we speak to prospective donors about scholarship support,” says Keith Pickus, WSU Foundation vice president. “We have so many cases of really bright, ambitious students who deserve an education, but either they don’t apply or they drop out because of the cost.”

Overall, the Shock the World fundraising campaign for Wichita State seeks to increase scholarship awards by 80 percent, Pickus noted. With just two and a half years remaining in the seven-year campaign, nearly 80 percent of that goal has been reached.

Allison, who just completed his first semester at Wichita State, is the first in his family to go to college.

The odds were stacked against him at a young age. When he was 13, his mother died of cancer. He and his two older brothers lived in an apartment building managed by an uncle, scrambling to pay their own bills and stay in school. His brothers talked about going to college because they knew how much their mother had wished for it. But life took them on other paths, and so they looked to Darrell to take that step.

“My mom isn’t able to see me, but I know she would be proud,” says Allison, who grew up on the south side of St. Louis. He is service-minded, saying he envisions a day after law school when he hopes to mentor and inspire low-income and minority youth to improve their lives through education.

“I want to give back, to show them that they can do it, too, one step at a time.”

For more information

If you would like to learn more about establishing a scholarship at Wichita State, contact Keith Pickus, WSU Foundation vice president, at 316-978-7791 or keith.pickus@wichita.edu.

Aaron Winter