$1 million gift will fund scholarships for Penn State adult learners

The Bernard Osher Foundation award will create a permanent scholarship endowment for adults completing an undergraduate degree

There are more than 15,000 Penn State undergraduate students who qualify as adult learners. Like their traditional counterparts, many need help paying for college, but they have fewer financial aid options. With college enrollment of adult learners projected to increase 28 percent through 2019, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the need for financial aid for this student population will continue to grow. A $1 million gift to Penn State from the Bernard Osher Foundation is designed to help by creating a scholarship endowment specifically for adult learners.

"This gift is a critically important resource for Penn State's adult learners," said Martha Jordan, director of Admission Services and Adult Learner Advocacy in Penn State Outreach. "It will help us lay a substantial foundation for future financial assistance by creating a permanent scholarship endowment for this growing student population."

Penn State's adult learners are 24 years old or older, veterans of the armed services, active-duty military service members, returning to school after four or more years of employment, homemaking or other activity, or managing multiple roles as parent, spouse/partner, employee and student.

Shawn Cicero, a 2010 Osher Reentry Scholarship recipient, appreciated his scholarship. "Financially, it's been difficult. Getting the scholarship was amazing," said Cicero, who used the award to help with his undergraduate research project.

Penn State received its first gift of $50,000 from the Osher Foundation's Osher Reentry Scholarship Program in 2009. As a result, 30 adult learners at multiple Penn State campuses received awards of up to $2,000 for tuition. In 2010, 39 received scholarships, and this year, 38 received scholarships. With the endowment, which will exist in perpetuity, Penn State's Adult Learner Scholarship Committee hopes in the future to award annual scholarships to 40 adult learners and to increase the average award to $2,500.

Outreach's Office of Adult Learner Advocacy administers the Osher Reentry Scholarships and recruits applicants in collaboration with campus adult enrollment coordinators and student aid representatives. In addition, scholarship application information is online. To qualify, students need to be returning to college after a gap of five or more years to complete their first undergraduate degree, plan to enter the workforce after graduation, be 25 to 50 years of age and demonstrate financial need. Priority will be given to students enrolled in courses on campus.

The Bernard Osher Foundation, headquartered in San Francisco, works to improve quality of life through support for higher education and the arts. Penn State is among 77 institutions receiving scholarship funding.

Penn State Outreach serves more than 5 million people each year, delivering more than 2,000 programs to people in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, all 50 states and 114 countries worldwide.

Credit: Bill Wallace, Penn State OutreachAll Rights Reserved.

Last Updated May 25, 2011