Last fall, a report by the Institute for College Access and Success found that student debt at the U of M is trending down. Average debt hit a nine-year low at $25,573, and 44 percent of graduates had no debt at all. While shorter times to degree completion is a factor, donor generosity is having a big impact as well. Scholarships took the place of loans for more students, decreasing future debt.
For institutions that are committed to ensuring access, like CEHD, scholarship donors are crucial partners. College students who benefit from scholarships get a financial—and emotional—boost to help them complete their degree.
Brenda Hartman (BS ’81 and MSW ’89) is providing that boost through monthly giving. In January 2017, Brenda kicked off the new year by starting a recurring gift to the Promise of Tomorrow Scholarship. This fund, established by the CEHD Alumni Society, benefits undergraduate and Initial Licensure Program students. After giving intermittently, Brenda decided to set up a monthly credit card charge to sustain her commitment. She says, “The process was so simple, I don’t even remember what I had to do!”
Brenda knows firsthand how scholarships can make a difference. She and her two children had financial support during their undergraduate and graduate degrees, and her past service on the Alumni Society Board provided deeper insight on the availability of scholarship opportunities and the burden of student debt.
Brenda studied in both the Institute of Child Development and in the School of Social Work, preparing her for a therapy practice. About 25 years ago, she began a focus on working with people with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses after her own diagnosis of stage 4 ovarian cancer. Brenda’s mission is to make sure all health care workers are prepared for end of life conversations.
“The overlap and different depth of training that I received from my two graduate programs was phenomenal and really brought me to what I am doing now,” she says. “I value what the University has given to me and now watching what it has given to my two children, I want to be able to keep giving the amount that I can and help students get through their academic paths.”
Story by Ann Dingman | Photos by Jayme Halbritter | Spring/Summer 2020