The Elgin Community College Foundation this month marks 30 years of providing scholarships and financial support for students in need.
The foundation -- the philanthropic arm of the college -- was chartered in 1984. Since then, it has awarded nearly $5 million in scholarships to more than 7,000 students.
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"The first year was pretty modest," said Katherine Sawyer, ECC Foundation executive director. "They raised around $59,000 ... they awarded about $4,000 in scholarships in that first year."
Today, the foundation administers 250 individual scholarships awarding anywhere from $250 up to $22,000 yearly per student. More than 200 students benefit from scholarships each year.
"It really does cover the gamut ... there are international students, minorities, single mothers, traditional age students and nontraditional age students, and older adults that are looking for a second chance," Sawyer said. "They need the resources to be able to enroll and stay in college."
Of the roughly 18,000 students that come through ECC, 65 percent are in need of some financial assistance, according to the college's financial aid office.
Tuition, books and fees for a full-time student could cost about $5,000 yearly.
"Compared to the alternative, that's quite a bargain," Sawyer said.
With the increasing ethnic diversity of ECC's student population, the needs also have grown -- 35 percent of students are Hispanic, 6 percent are black, 7 percent are Asian, and there is a growing population of international students.
"That is a challenge," Sawyer said. "We're seeking to generate more funding for student scholarships and to support areas of the college that are important to the donors of our community. Ultimately, our primary goal is access to make sure that anyone who wants to advance their education has the ability to do so."
Aside from scholarships, the foundation has invested money back into ECC programs and facilities. The foundation supplied camera equipment for the college's new health and life sciences building for use in its skills lab, and has supported ECC's arts programs by sponsoring student participation and travel for a national photography conference in Chicago last year, Sawyer said
Sawyer said officials are working on launching an alumni program and hope to tap that pool for donations.
The foundation's funding comes from a mix of individual and corporate donors.
The foundation will host a Pearl Anniversary Gala Sept. 20 for past and current donors, board members and supporters. It will be held at the pavilion at Otto Engineering, 100 S. Lincoln Ave., Carpentersville. For details, visit elgin.edu.