Northeast Community College campus NDN

Two-thirds of Northeast Community College students need financial aid to even consider attending, with around 700 students applying for scholarships annually, said Tracy Kruse, vice president of development and external affairs. 

The college, however, was limited to granting $413,671 to 353 of the applicants this year.

A recent $15 million donation from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott is projected to more than double that number, plus help fund student services in years to come.

“$400,000 for scholarships is nowhere near enough,” Kruse said. “This is very desperately needed and will be put to good use. ... We are hoping for an opportunity to make the most impact.”

Scott’s donation is part of a $4.1 billion giving pledge that she started in 2019. The college received news that it was selected to receive $15 million on Dec. 16, announcing it would be used for a scholarship endowment and student support initiatives.

Amanda Nipp, vice president of student services, said the college is still discussing exactly what services will benefit from the donation.

“At this time, we are still evaluating how we can utilize those funds to assist those most in need — there are a lot of possibilities right now,” Nipp said. “We are still a bit in a state of shock because it's amazing to be able to have the option to consider the things we have always wanted to do.”

The donation will increase Northeast Community College Foundation’s endowment by 144%, Kruse said. The foundation now has nearly $47 million in assets, with $25.6 million in endowment by donor restriction or board designation.

The foundation will invest the principle and Scott’s gift itself, which will earn interest, and earnings collected over time will create payouts, she said. Northeast usually collects a payout anywhere from 4% to 6% on an annual basis.

“If we are paying out 5% of $15 million, that’s $750,000,” Kruse said. “Imagine what that can do.”

Kruse and Nipp both said they hope this amount helps more low-income students to attend Northeast, which is a group that has decreased in enrollment numbers from last fall.

It takes $15,427 on average to attend Northeast full time for one year, Kruse said. This amount covers tuition, all living expenses and other costs.

Even students who can’t receive a family contribution, meaning they qualify for the full Pell Grant, are still $2,732 short after receiving all federal aid available to them — including student loans.

“It wasn’t even an option for them, it wasn’t something they could overcome,” Nipp said. “Now this gives us the ability to give students who maybe wanted to live on campus to have the whole college experience.”

The number of emergency grants and midyear requests because of the pandemic has greatly increased this year, Kruse said. Many students lost their jobs or had to pay leases in Norfolk even though they moved back home in the spring, along with other hardships.

Scholarships, including those funded by the new donation, will be available to apply for on Jan. 1 and will be awarded in April for the 2021-22 school year. The college has one application for all scholarships.

“One of the things we have seen is the impact this pandemic has had on these low-income students,” Kruse said. “Those are the ones we saw not coming to college this year due to circumstances. When you think about lower-income students, they already have a lower college (continuation) rate than higher income students. Some students who have every ability and motivation to go don’t have an opportunity, and that’s where we will have the most impact.”

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