Harper makes $1 million challenge for 'Promise' scholarships
Harper College is dangling a maximum of $1 million as a challenge to a private foundation raising money for a program offering free tuition to qualifying high school students.
Palatine-based Harper has set aside the potential grant money in a fund with restricted uses. President Ken Ender said the fundraising challenge would begin after the private Harper College Educational Foundation hits the $10 million mark in donations collected for the program.
Ender said the school would match, up to $1 million, what the foundation raises from the private sector for the Harper College Promise Scholarship Program. The grant challenge likely would start before the year ends, officials said, because the foundation has collected $8.6 million for the program and will add donations from next month's 50th anniversary gala -- a major fundraiser.
"They'll have one year to try and get that (maximum) match," Ender said after trustees authorized transferring the $1 million to the restricted fund at a recent meeting. "It's a dollar-for-dollar match."
Educational foundation board members will need to give formal approval to accept the task of trying to raise another $1 million for the scholarship program.
Students from Northwest Suburban High School District 214, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 and Barrington Area Unit District 220 may pursue the Harper Promise scholarship. The first group of eligible students were freshmen in fall 2015.
Under the program's guidelines, the students can receive up to two years of tuition at Harper College if they maintain solid grades, have good attendance, don't repeat classes, graduate on time and provide service in their communities. Harper launched the initiative in March 2015 amid national concern about college affordability.
Harper board President Gregory Dowell said a budget surplus allowing for the maximum $1 million grant for the challenge to the foundation would be money well-spent.
"The key initiative for us is to encourage students to come here and especially to target those students who've shown some of that grit and determination and persistence that we look for, because we know those are markers of success not only in college, but later in life as well," Dowell said.
Laura Brown, the educational foundation's chief advancement officer, said she's optimistic the $10 million in fundraising for the Harper Promise will be achieved after the 50th anniversary gala Sept. 16. The bash will be at Priester Aviation's airplane hangars on the Wheeling side of Chicago Executive Airport.
Brown said 480 gala tickets were sold at $500 each to make it a sellout. Revenue for the event from various sources already totals $840,000 and will grow that evening from a live auction expected to have opportunities including use of a private jet for 12 people go on a whirlwind golf vacation in Florida and North Carolina.