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Larson Family Gift Supports UW-Eau Claire's
Growing Single-Parent Scholarship Program
MAILED: Sept. 16, 2002
EAU CLAIRE — Marcia Larson knows firsthand the challenges facing single-parent college students and their children.
During the 1980s, she earned a college degree in four years (including summer school) while raising three children as a single parent. That experience has led Marcia, her husband, Dick, and their children to make a gift of $2,000 from the Eau Claire Area Foundation's Larson Family Fund to support single-parent scholarships at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Marcia Larson noted that adult students, including single parents, who pursue a college degree have a unique, goal-oriented dedication to their studies.
"They go out and become such productive members of society because they have a specific goal in mind," she said. "Any help an adult student can receive, I'm absolutely one hundred percent for it."
At UW-Eau Claire, giving to the Foundation for single-parent scholarships has increased steadily, from a total of $4,000 in 1999, to $10,000 in 2000, to $17,000 in 2001, said Vicky Petermann, UW-Eau Claire Foundation director of development research and donor relations.
She added that much of the credit for increased awareness about the need for aid to single-parent students goes to a group called Women For Philanthropy. Members of the group's steering committee collectively support several scholarships for full- and part-time single-parent students. The group also helps to secure private individual and corporate donations to support additional single-parent scholarships.
Gifts like the one from the Larson family "enable us to fulfill our mission, which is giving opportunities to single parents who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to earn a degree and to better provide for their families," said Cathy Sultan, chair of the Women For Philanthropy steering committee.
"The Larson gift is particularly important because a gift of this size raises an awareness of the needs of these parents," Sultan said.
While giving to UW-Eau Claire's single-parent scholarship program has been on the increase, it still touches only a portion of the single-parent students enrolled at the university, Petermann said. A total of 24 single-parent scholarships in amounts from $500 to $1,000 were awarded during the 2001-02 academic year, but at least 104 university students were single parents during that time, she said. (That number comes from student contacts made with UW-Eau Claire's Financial Aid office; officials have no way of obtaining the true number, Petermann said.) Of those 104 single-parent students, 60 percent had incomes of less than $10,000, which is well below the federal poverty level.
The average single-parent student has $4,607 in student loans for one school year, Petermann said. "The debt load when they graduate is staggering," she said.
Petermann noted that scholarships for single parents have important benefits for their children as well.
"The critical element in all of this is the children," she said. "They are also making sacrifices of time and economic status while Mom or Dad is in school. We know that the children benefit from improved opportunities a degree will offer the parent, but the children also see their parent as a role model pursuing an education, which yields a more secure living environment. It's a win-win as we help our community one student at a time."
Gifts to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation in support of single-parent scholarships will be counted as gifts to Fulfilling the Promise of Excellence, UW-Eau Claire's comprehensive fund-raising campaign to secure $35 million in private support by July 2005 for the university's people and programs. Those interested in supporting single-parent scholarships can contact Petermann by phone at (715) 836-2911 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: September 16, 2002