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Starr announces scholarship goals

Sept. 15, 2010

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President Ken Starr

By Sara Tirrito
Staff writer

President Ken Starr will announce the President's Scholarship Initiative today, which poses a goal of increasing student scholarship funds by $100 million by the end of the 2013 fiscal year.

The idea for the initiative came from the students, Starr said.

"Last spring during transition, I sat in on a meeting with the leadership of the student government, and student government described the challenges of the cost of higher education at Baylor and also reported on their unfolding effort to come forward with a specific proposal to the Board of Regents to address that problem," Starr said. "This was student driven; it came from the grassroots."

The initiative is specifically focused on increasing need-based scholarships, merit-based scholarships, athletic scholarships and out-of-classroom enrichment scholarships, which support programs such as mission trips and study abroad.

Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, said all classifications are eligible for these scholarships, some of which can be applied for now through the same application process that students have used in the past.

"There are a number of scholarships that are awarded annually that students can apply for now," Fogleman said. "This initiative is focused on increasing that support and providing for more scholarships for students."

Houston senior and Student Body President Michael Wright said he has confidence that alumni will be willing to make contributions so that the goal can be reached.

"I think when people are able to connect with students and hear firsthand stories from students that are affected by the rising costs of higher education, alumni old and young are going to be willing to contribute whatever they can," Wright said. "Whether it's $10 a month, $10 a year, or more than that -- that little bit will make a difference in a young person's life and help contribute to their education."

Richard Willis, a member of the Baylor Board of Regents, and his wife Karen, a Baylor alumna, are the chairs of the steering committee for the initiative. The couple has already endowed seven scholarships for Baylor students, and have committed $1 million to this initiative.

The steering committee includes more than 20 families who will help guide the initiative and encourage others to give. Each family is also making a monetary contribution.

"[Within the committee] I think you could find somebody who's been involved in every school and probably every program within the schools at Baylor," Willis said. "Within the committee we're also each making a commitment. We're standing behind the initiative."

Diversity among the committee members is important because it will enable the committee to better meet the needs of Baylor's various colleges and programs, Willis said.

"A lot of time when you talk about needs for a particular school, there's not a lot of people that have been involved in it," Willis said. "We're trying to make sure we have people that understand what the needs are within each college so we can fill the need the right way."

Willis said he believes the 2013 goal can be reached because the importance of and need for scholarships is well-known.

"I think the good thing is people understand and believe in scholarships," Willis said. "Churches, institutions, businesses -- everybody can get behind the scholarship initiative."

Although Baylor is still considered a 'best buy,' Starr said he hopes the whole Baylor family will come together to help reduce students' debt loads.

"Baylor University remains a best buy and we're thankful for that," Starr said. "At the same time it's on our hearts to care about our students and to care about the families and to care about the debt loads students leave Baylor University with, and we want to address that. We want to call the entire Baylor family together to help address it."

Starr said he plans for the increase to exceed $100 million by 2013, but whether it happens will depend on the alumni's actions.

"The metaphor I keep using is the little engine that could, but that will depend on our alums," Starr said. "Will our alums rally around? We can only ask and encourage. We don't have the power of taxation. This has to be a labor of love and a gift out of love by our 144,000 alums."

Endowed gifts given now will also help future students, Starr said. This is because funds for endowed scholarships are invested, and a portion of the money gained through the investment is given as a scholarship each year, while the rest is saved and invested again so that the endowed funds will grow and scholarships can continue being given out.

"We are asking you [alums] to give and to give now and to give as much as you can over these next several years to help our students," Starr said.

"When I say help our students, this is helping our students in perpetuity. It's helping students who are here now, but [also] future members of that old Baylor Line -- that's the beauty of a gift to endowment."

Unrestricted gifts designated for scholarships are the best because they allow the financial aid office to have flexibility with and make maximum use of the funds, although restricted gifts are also appreciated, Starr said. Restricted gifts are those with stipulations on what the money can be used for, such as scholarships designated for students in specific programs.

"We recognize that some, perhaps many, donors will have a special heart for one school or one major, and we obviously welcome and honor that," Starr said, "but the ideal gift is one that simply provides flexibility to the university so that it can address the needs of all our students."

Starr and his wife, Alice, made a $100,000 pledge to begin an unrestricted endowed scholarship--the Ken and Alice Starr Endowed Scholarship Fund.

"I felt it was the right thing to do first and foremost, and secondly that there was symbolic value to the entire community of Baylor alumni, parents and friends that we need to jump in and all pitch in to the fullest extent that we can," Starr said. "I wish the scholarship were more, but we hope to add to it as the years go by. We knew that that would provide for a meaningful scholarship to a student, and so we felt called to be supportive."

On Tuesday, Robert Beauchamp, a member of the board of regents, and his wife Laura made a $100,000 gift to the Starrs' fund.

"We wanted this to be an example, but I could not be more thankful to Bob and Laura Beauchamp," Starr said.

Wright said the Starrs' pledge to the initiative shows that they want to help students.

"I'm a big believer in practicing what you preach and leading by example, so I'm just very, very impressed," Wright said. "It just goes to show that he and Mrs. Starr truly do believe that this is a need and concern among students, and that they clearly want to make a concerted effort to help out with this solution."