What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “the power of philanthropy” in relation to student success?
One of the first things likely to come to mind is scholarships. Scholarships keep students from having to work long hours to support their education or drop out of school entirely. They provide the financial support needed to help students stay in school and complete their degrees on time. Additionally, scholarships help students avoid debt, which can hobble them financially, just when their careers are taking off.
Student loan debt is an ever-growing problem. According to the most recent data from Forbes, 2016 graduates in the United States carry an average of $37,172 in student loan debt. While the average amount of student loan debt is significantly lower for FIU students, approximately 50 percent of 2016-17 FIU graduates had student loan debt, and the average amount owed at graduation was just below $20,000. At current student loan interest rates and standard repayment periods, an FIU college graduate will carry that debt for a decade and pay more than $7,640 in interest.
For these reasons, donors who want to invest in student success often choose to do so through scholarships. And while the variety of scholarship options at a university like FIU rivals the menu at a sushi bar/wings joint, one choice is increasingly popular with donors: first-generation scholarships.
First-generation scholarships provide support to qualified undergraduate students who are the first in their families to attend college. Because private donations to first-generation scholarships are matched by the State of Florida, donors’ gifts have greater impact. At FIU, nearly 50 percent of the undergraduate student population is comprised of first-generation students, and 93 percent of those first-generation scholarship recipients are minorities.
For donors like Rajiv Jain, chairman and chief investment officer of GQG Partners, first-generation scholarships are appealing due to their incredible impact. After initially working with FIU’s Department of Religious Studies to create the Bhagwan Mahavir Professorship in Jain Studies in 2010, he began to hear about first-generation scholarships and immediately saw the value.
Through the Latika and Rajiv Jain Charitable Foundation, Jain and his wife donated to the First Generation Scholarship Fund and created the Latika and Rajiv Jain First Generation Scholarship. The gift supports first-generation students who are pursuing majors from the STEM disciplines.
“It has a tremendous impact on a group who really needs it the most, and for [a] relatively small amount,” Rajiv Jain explains. “It’s a great return on investment.”
And just as the Jains and donors like them can see the impact of their investment in first-generation scholarships, students like Ashley Diaz feel that power.
“The first-generation scholarship helped a lot,” Diaz says. “I have absolutely no debt post-graduation.”
Diaz graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and received special recognition as a Worlds Ahead Graduate. She is now working as an administrative assistant for FIU Online before continuing her education and attending medical school.
Diaz was able to meet Rajiv Jain. This not only allowed her to thank him, it also reinforced her commitment to giving back, just as he had done for her.
“I want to be [like] one of the sponsors who helped me while I was in school,” she says. “Because Rajiv donated to my academics and helped me graduate a lot sooner, I now want to give back. It was very rewarding to get to know him.”
So the next time you hear the phrase “the power of philanthropy,” think of student success. Think of Diaz and students like her. Do the math. Philanthropy is more powerful when it multiplies. ♦