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Miller Foundation to aid community colleges

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Oregon’s 17 community colleges have been challenged to outpace their fundraising for student scholarship money next year, thanks to a challenge grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.

If the colleges can meet the challenge, it would result in hundreds of additional scholarships for some of the most financially strapped students throughout Oregon.

“This is visionary, daring,” said Rick Zurow, executive director of the Portland Community College Foundation. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest investment by a private foundation in the history of Oregon’s community colleges.”

The Miller Foundation – an independent, private organization established to enhance the quality of life of Oregonians through support of the arts and education – has offered to donate $1.5 million in total to the 17 community colleges. The challenges range from $50,000 for the 10 smallest community colleges, up to $320,000 for Portland Community College, the state’s largest post-secondary educational institution.

To get the donation, each college’s foundation will have to raise an equal amount in new money – atop the amounts they raised between April 2007 and March 2008 for scholarships.

“We feel community colleges are a vital part of Oregon’s educational system and economy,” said Chuck Putney, president of the Miller Foundation board. However, attendance at these colleges is a financial challenge for many students.” “Frequently, the opportunity to attend a community college is the pathway to a living wage and a secure family.”

Zurow said the PCC Foundation received 850 applications for scholarships in 2007-08 and had funds for only 335 of them. If the college meets the Miller Foundation challenge, that could provide funds for hundreds of additional scholarships.

“We are providing scholarships for hundreds of students who never dreamed they could afford to go to college,” said Preston Pulliams, president of PCC. “But we also turn many students away. The Miller Foundation challenge would bring us close to the goal of serving every student who applies for a grant. This is a fundamental step of our long-range vision of access for everyone who wants in.”

Eligible students must fill out the federal scholarship form – known as the FAFSA – and must seek an Oregon Opportunity Grant. The Miller Foundation funds would be added atop those federal and state moneys.

To be eligible, a student must be seeking an associate’s degree, a certificate or a professional license; the funds are not available for those in non-credit courses, a GED program, a high school diploma program, or students taking courses not designed to meet a degree, certificate or license.

For more information, contact the PCC Foundation office at (503) 977-4382

Portland Community College is the largest post-secondary institution in Oregon, serving approximately 86,700 full- and part-time students. For more PCC news, please visit us on the Web at www.pcc.edu/news. PCC has three comprehensive campuses, five workforce training and education centers, and 200 community locations in the Portland metropolitan area. The PCC district encompasses a 1,500-square-mile area in northwest Oregon and offers two-year degrees, one-year certificate programs, short-term training, alternative education, pre-college courses and life-long learning.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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