Pooling resources to fund a scholarship for Dreamers and first-generation students
When you picture someone who might fund a scholarship, what kind of person comes to mind?
Maybe a wealthy philanthropist? Or a retired couple intent on leaving a legacy through their estate?
In fact, there are many ways to endow a scholarship—for instance, joining with friends and family to create a group gift.
Four longtime friends, all in their late 30s, have done just that, pooling their resources to endow a scholarship for WSU Vancouver students.
These former housemates—Melissa and Jeff Bassett, Brandon Schneider, and Jared Brown—each made a commitment in 2022 to cover one-fourth of the $25,000 amount required to fund an endowment, or $6,250 per person.
In addition, they each made a pledge to make their payments over five years. This means that each will contribute $1,250 per year (per person) to reach their collective goal of $25,000 by 2027.
The result will be a fully funded endowment called the Commercial House Endowed Scholarship for Dreamers and First-Generation Students.
This endowment will support WSU Vancouver students with preference given first to DACA (Dreamer) and undocumented students; second preference will be given to first-generation students, no matter what their family background.
Even though none of the four friends are WSU alumni, “If it weren’t for our own college experience [elsewhere] we wouldn’t be friends,” said Brandon Schneider. “Giving back to others so they can build lifelong friendships is something we feel is important for all.”
A gift that grows over time
An endowment is a fund created to exist in perpetuity, starting with a contribution of a minimum amount (for scholarships, the current minimum is $25,000), which establishes a principal that then accrues interest over time—creating a larger principal fund as interest adds to the balance. From the principal, the endowment pays out 4 percent per year for the designated use.
When the Commercial House endowment at WSU Vancouver is fully funded in 2027, it will begin to pay out a total of $1,000 per year to those awarded scholarships. That annual amount will grow over time as the principal grows.
This idea was hatched by Melissa Bassett, a development officer on the WSU Vancouver campus.
A major part of Bassett’s role is asking others to consider funding scholarships. Because of her job, she was acutely aware that undocumented students are not eligible for federal aid, which creates financial challenges for them that other students may not experience.
Also, time after time, she would become aware of the economic struggles of first-generation students, whose families oftentimes are unable to assist them financially.
Bassett is also responsible for asking WSU Vancouver scholarship recipients to provide short videos thanking donors for their generosity. One of those videos—a heartfelt message from student and scholarship recipient Lindsey Luis—completely wowed Bassett, impressing her with both the young woman’s story as a first generation scholarship recipient, and her gratitude for the scholarship support she had already received.
Creative thinking, willing partners
Bassett realized that—with some creative thinking and some willing funding partners—she could create a scholarship that would support the students she knew were most in need of financial support.
First, she recruited her husband Jeff to contribute an equal share. Then, during a backyard barbeque in 2021, she pitched the idea to their friend, Brandon Schneider. When Schneider agreed, they all decided they needed a fourth partner, and so persuaded another mutual friend, Jared Brown.
All four had lived together in a house in Portland years before, and they have remained close friends ever since. Now they’ve created a completely different kind of bond that will link them in an act of generosity that will endure the rest of their lives—and beyond.
After establishing the fund, they also came up with an additional creative dimension to magnify their impact.
“We’ve all encouraged friends and family to contribute to the scholarship—mostly in lieu of Christmas or birthday gifts to us,” said Melissa Bassett, thus widening the circle of support and creating a more robust scholarship fund.
Did you know that you can:
- Get together with friends and family to make a gift?
- Make a pledge to pay over time?
- Fund a scholarship as a faculty or staff member?