Susan Basil King, executive director of Wallin Education Partners, said the Minneapolis-based nonprofit and its partners recently awarded four-year scholarships to send a record 280 Minnesota students to college this fall.

Wallin Education Partners offers advisory services and works with educational institutions to identify state and federal grants and other programs for high-potential students with financial needs, King said. The graduation rate for recipients exceeds 90 percent. “We think of our scholarship component as being the last dollar,” she said. “It allows us to leverage all of that funding.”

The late Winston “Win” Wallin and his wife, Maxine, founded Wallin Education Partners in 1992. Win Wallin was a Medtronic chief executive, Pillsbury president and Twin Cities philanthropic pioneer. “He said, ‘We have plenty of talent here; we need to get these kids educated and employed by the companies in our region,’ ” King said.

In all, Wallin Education Partners this fall will have nearly 800 students attending 62 colleges. Donors include the Wallin family, with 50 scholarships each year, King said. Northstar Education Finance is supporting 119 scholars, U.S. Bank and Medtronic 10 each. A number of families give one scholarship a year.

King, previously an organization effectiveness consultant who has worked in the nonprofit, educational and private sectors, joined Wallin Education Partners as executive director in 2013. The number of students receiving scholarships since has increased by 70 percent.

Q: What happens at the receptions?

A: This is the opportunity once a year for scholars to be recognized and the donors who are providing key funding for the scholarships to meet for the first time. They meet their student and become part of this larger support group throughout college.


Q: What is driving the growth in scholarship numbers?

A: It’s building on all the work that was done before. One thing I was able to bring to the organization was letting other people know about the program and the success it has. But we have three times as many students who apply. We just don’t have enough money to provide scholarships for all of them.


Q: How does the organization’s mission support equal access to educational attainment?

A: For the past 40 years 77 percent of students from families in the top economic quartile in the country will go to college and receive a four-year degree. In the lowest quartile, 40 years ago it was 7 percent and it’s only up to about 14 percent now. Our program is designed to address that as well as all of the other issues that confront these students who in many cases don’t have parents that have gone to college.