Community Foundation of St. Clair County Launches $1M Program: Redefines Scholarships

Monday, December 18, 2017

With backing from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation in Detroit, the Community Foundation of St. Clair County has launched its second phase of reinventing scholarships with at least a $1 million commitment over the next three years for the Complete Your Degree Program.  

The Complete Your Degree (CYD) program will place an emphasis on providing life needs support, well above the normal tuition, books and supplies, for non-traditional students, young adults and working class families to enable them to complete a college degree or training program in skilled trades.

“We’re trying to change the narrative of scholarship providers nationally,” Mike Cansfield, board chair of the community foundation said. “For too many years scholarship providers have tended to talk in terms of how many young people ‘we help get into college’, rather than how many young people we help overcome life barriers and obstacles in order to succeed in college."

The community foundation began a complete overhaul and redefinition of its scholarship programs in early 2016 when it pioneered the innovative “Come Home Reverse Scholarship” program that pays recent college graduates up to $10,000 to move back home to live and work. It is essentially a back-end scholarship that supports regional economic growth and prosperity.

Randy Maiers, president and CEO of the community foundation, said, “Complete Your Degree builds on the progress we’ve made in being more strategic with our scholarship assets. However, in size and scope and impact, CYD will be dramatically larger on all fronts.”

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation is providing a grant of $197,000 to help increase the community foundation’s capacity to launch and manage the CYD program. The community foundation is already accepting applications for the program. The CYD program places emphasis in the following areas:

  • Young adults  who have already completed some college credits at St. Clair County Community College (SC4) or another college, but who are at risk of not completing their college education due to life needs and obstacle

  • Young adults who previously tried college or university at a four-year institution, but were not successful due to life needs barriers and obstacles

  • Young adults who graduated from high school within the last several years, but who never tried college before

  • Graduating high school seniors who attended high school in either Port Huron or Marine City

  • Young adults who are single parents; those who would be first generation college graduates and those from single parent families

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the 6-year graduation rate for the class of 2009 seeking a bachelor’s degree was only 59 percent for public institutions. According to Maiers, “What the CYD program is basically doing is increasing the effectiveness of our scholarship investments by providing gap funding or completion grants to help young adults overcome short-term barriers to graduation that originate outside of the classroom.”

According to the community foundation, the additional funding available through the CYD program may cover short-term expenses such as transportation, food, medical care, daycare, and even housing.  

St. Clair Community College (SC4) is the community foundation’s primary initial partner for the program, and the foundation expects most of its funding over the next few years to be directed towards college completion at SC4.  

“The CYD program aligns directly with the College’s mission to maximize student success,” Dr. Deborah Snyder, president of SC4, said. “We are so thankful for the benefits it will provide our students.”

Maiers added, “We feel our regional economy will benefit the most by focusing our initial attention on increasing completion rates for non-traditional students and young adults at SC4. This program would not be possible without their close partnership and collaboration.”

The Community Foundation of St. Clair County is the largest and oldest grantmaking foundation in Michigan’s Thumb Region and has a heavy emphasis on regional growth and prosperity. Complete details and the application for the Complete Your Degree program can be found on the foundation’s website.