California group’s $50,000 grant for WSU adult learners could grow 20-fold

Susan Norton

Susan Norton, director of satellite campuses and workforce development at Wichita State, will oversee the Osher Reentry Scholars Program for adult learners returning to college.

At least 20 people who had abandoned or postponed their college educations will be returning to school this fall with the goal of earning bachelor’s degrees from Wichita State, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation.

The grant will establish the Osher Reentry Scholarship Program, aimed at adult learners who want to complete their education but face financial barriers.

“We’re trying to help those folks who are kind of caught in the middle. They want to come back to school but they need a little push to get them over that financial bump,” said Susan Norton, director of satellite campuses and workforce development at Wichita State.

“We want them to understand that this is a pretty big deal,” she said. “They are the first recipients of the Osher Scholarship. No other Kansas university has an Osher Reentry Scholarship Program.”

The Bernard Osher Foundation, based in San Francisco, seeks to improve the quality of life through higher education and the arts. Officials from the organization became aware of Wichita State’s work with adult learners and welcomed a proposal from the WSU Foundation to create a college re-entry program for nontraditional students.

Osher scholarship recipients must be between the ages of 25 and 50 and pursuing their first bachelor’s degree. They also must have a cumulative gap in their education of at least five years. Scholarships have been awarded for the fall semester, but applications will be accepted for the spring semester if money is available, Norton said.

All recipients must agree to participate in WSU’s Osher Reentry Scholars Program, which seeks to provide academic support, counseling and advocacy designed to help them make the transition back to school and then to complete their degrees. A key part of the program is creating a support system among Osher recipients at Wichita State. Activities to help keep the students engaged and motivated will be offered; a recognition banquet already has been scheduled for October.

“What we’re trying to do is give them a sense of belonging, of solidarity,” Norton said.

If Wichita State can demonstrate success with the first year of the Osher Reentry Scholarship Program, it will seek funding in successive years with the ultimate goal of securing a $1 million endowment from the Bernard Osher Foundation to award the scholarships for generations to come.

“We intend to do everything in our power to make that happen,” Norton said.

circle arrow  Learn more about the Osher Re-entry Scholarship Program

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