My Turn: Supporting GCC’s mission
Among the most satisfying activities of the Greenfield Community College Foundation is awarding scholarships to help GCC students with their educational expenses. The college’s doors are open to all who seek to learn and the costs of attending GCC are less than those of most other colleges and universities, but they often present significant financial barriers to students struggling to stay in school and cover the many expenses of their lives.
As president of the foundation’s board, I oversee our annual fundraising drive. The campaign supports GCC’s programs, helps purchase equipment and provides scholarships. The proposed increase in state funding for the new fiscal year will not make up for the harsh cuts the state inflicted on the college 10 years ago. The commonwealth’s contribution is less than half the college’s total budget. Money raised in the foundation’s campaign is essential to helping offset the burden of students’ tuition and fees.
The 2012 foundation campaign raised $845,179. Of this, $359,698 went to scholarships and other forms of financial aid. That members of our community were willing to donate generously is a powerful demonstration of their willingness to invest in the college’s mission. This has helped many people attend the college, their first step in a life-transforming journey. Many who successfully took that journey have returned to donate to the foundation’s campaign, enabling others to benefit as they have benefitted.
Still, many of our students’ financial needs are greater than our ability to meet them. Of the funds we raised in last year’s campaign, those designated for building financial aid packages were soon expended and many students remained in need. The balance of those funds was reserved for foundation scholarships awarded at the spring Scholarship Awards Ceremony. Current resources and student eligibility has limited these scholarships to one third of those who have applied for them.
Scholarship applicants, like all members of the GCC student body, are representative of our community, people you encounter daily. More than two-thirds live in Franklin County. Others come from the surrounding area: Hampshire County, southern Vermont and New Hampshire. They attend school full time and part time. Many hold jobs. Some are raising families. Many struggle to pay life’s normal living expenses, plus the costs of their education: tuition, textbooks, school supplies and transportation. They may stint on food to heat their homes. They may stint on heating fuel to pay their light bills. And all the while they study in order to transform and improve their lives and those of their loved ones.
Twenty percent of the GCC students who applied for foundation scholarships expect to graduate this June. The remaining 80 percent will need financial aid. Our scholarships are modest, but combined with other resources, they can make a difference between staying in school and dropping out. A single example might be a student who offsets her tuition bill with a $500 foundation scholarship award, at the same time using GCC’s Food Pantry to help manage her budget while she continues her studies.
The funds this community generously and graciously gives to the foundation’s annual campaign have a positive and profound impact upon our students. Recently the college publicly celebrated students who went on to succeed and returned to help others change their lives. We must continue reaching out to our community. This year our campaign goal is $800,000, and we once again are counting on members of the community to rejoin us in contributing funds for the students of Greenfield Community College.
GCC is the only community college in the Upper Pioneer Valley and the only college in Franklin County. With its mission of access to learning and excellence, GCC represents hope to its students. With a strong and dedicated faculty, GCC offers academic excellence and opportunities for transfer to four-year schools in the arts, liberal arts, sciences and social sciences. In addition, the college’s two-year programs provide education designed to prepare people for jobs in technology, agriculture, renewable energy, business and nursing.
GCC is for everyone: for high school students from the top 10 percent of their classes who know exactly which of GCC’s programs fit their path; for those not sure what they want to do with their lives; for adults eager to acquire the education or training needed to increase their earning potential. GCC is where all can set out on the journey to realize their dreams.
Please support GCC‘s mission. You may be asked to contribute by a fundraising volunteer. You may receive a letter asking for a contribution. Perhaps this article is how you heard of the campaign. In any case, I urge you to say yes and help support GCC students. Make a difference.
You can make a gift online anytime at www.gcc.mass.edu/foundation/give or call 413-775-1600.
Diane H. Esser is an attorney and Greenfield resident.