The 31 colleges and universities are part of the same system. But fundraising within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities has been a solo sport.

No longer.

The system’s 42 foundations — some colleges claim more than one — are banding together to raise $20 million over two years for scholarships that will benefit about 16,000 students. Officials kicked off the campaign, called Access to Excellence, at an event last week.

“While perhaps modest by the standards set by other higher education institutions, this collective effort represents the most ambitious scholarship campaign in the history of MnSCU,” Michael Dougherty, the system’s vice chancellor for advancement, told the crowd.

It makes sense that most fund­raising happens at the campus level. An alumna didn’t graduate from MnSCU, officials like to say: She graduated from St. Cloud State University or Normandale Community College, so that’s where her allegiance lies.

But a collective goal is “a huge advantage” for raising awareness, said Colleen Simpson, executive director of Normandale’s foundation.

If divided equally, the average scholarship recipient might receive $1,250. That works out to a quarter of the annual cost of one of the system’s two-year colleges or 17 percent of a year’s tuition at a four-year university.

Nearly all the scholarships will be awarded based on students’ financial need, a spokesman said. More than a third of MnSCU students qualify for Pell Grants, the main federal program for low-income families.

“Unmet financial need is a major factor prevents many students … from completing a college degree,” Steven Rosenstone, MnSCU’s chancellor, said in a statement. The scholarships will help more low-income students enroll and graduate, he said.

But to students, scholarships are more than money, said Fred Goldschmidt, chair of Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College’s foundation board. One graduate recently told Goldschmidt that it also meant that “someone said I had value.”


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