Campaign nearing goal, reaches higher for student scholarships

By John Lester

Columbus State University’s First Choice fundraising campaign has surpassed $100 million in gifts and pledges, but volunteers and organizers are not celebrating just yet. The $100 million number counts pledges and gifts-in-kind — such as CSU’s Pasaquan in Buena Vista and artwork for the Bo Bartlett Center — meaning
there are significant needs identified in the beginning of the campaign that have not yet been met.

So while campaign organizers are proud of the progress to date, a plan is developing to spend 2017 focusing on a few strategic priorities, chief of which is student scholarships.

“We will be reaching out to alumni and other friends of the university to help us with this push to fund more student scholarships,” said Rocky Kettering, vice president for university advancement. “Helping another student achieve success at CSU is something where every donor can make a significant impact. The key here will be to garner participation in our campaign from a wide group of supporters.”

Columbus State University has more than 34,000 alumni across the country and more than 22,000 in the state of Georgia. When the campaign was launched in March 2015, each CSU academic unit was represented in the quest to find funding for student scholarships and to enhance programs and professorships. About $20 million in endowments for scholarships and professorships was targeted.

“In the fundraising world, it’s pretty common knowledge that the last money raised during a campaign is the hardest,” Kettering said. “We have had tremendous support, especially from our local partners, and achieved some fantastic milestones so far in this campaign, but we have some more work to do before we feel we can celebrate.”

Thirty percent of CSU’s students take advantage of Georgia’s HOPE scholarship program, which provides money from lottery sales to help Georgia residents go to college, provided the students keep their grade point average above a 3.0. But a higher percentage of CSU students — about 44 percent — take advantage of the federal government’s Pell Grant program, which is designed to help students with a demonstrated financial need.

These numbers underscore another obligation that the campaign will address: need-based scholarships.

“As state funding of higher education has decreased and tuition costs have increased, we are finding more examples of where a scholarship award of even a few hundred dollars can make the difference between whether a student can enroll or not,” said Chris Markwood, CSU President. “We are actively seeking to attract more and better students, and we need to help all those we can, in any way we can.”

Visit firstchoicecampaign.columbusstate.edu to participate.