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Last week's announcement that the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut will present more than 200 students from the region $440,342 in scholarships - the largest amount ever given for such aid by the charitable organization since it was formed in 1983 - is welcome news for recipients and their families.
"It is a joy for the foundation to bring to fruition our donors' wishes to provide greater access to higher education for aspiring young people in our region," said Maryam Elahi, the foundation's president and chief executive officer. "We are thrilled to provide scholarships which help in making higher education, a right in many countries, a more tangible reality for students who would otherwise have a difficult time affording it given the current astronomical costs of it."
But the generous awards also underscore the fact that for too many young men and women looking to further their education, college remains out of reach.
The College Board reports that the cost of private college tuition in Connecticut has gone from $25,000 in 2004 to more than $38,000; tuition at four-year public colleges and universities has increased from $6,300 to just above $10,000.
And while the foundation's scholarship amount represent an 18 percent increase over last year's awards totalling $372,450, a record 500 students applied for the assistance this year.
This is "an indication that families continue to face a growing challenge when it comes to rising tuition costs," said Mary Seidner, trustee and chair of the foundation's scholarship committee. "As a group of dedicated volunteers, the committee recognizes the merit and hard work of each student so it is hard when we are unable to help over half of the applicants. We hope this will inspire others with the interest and means to create their own scholarship funds so we can support an even greater number of students hoping to attend college."
This newspaper applauds the foundation for its efforts, along with the generosity of many individuals, families and area businesses who over the years have established nearly 100 funds to help promote access to education for local students.
This year's awards include $11,350 to 12 students in the Norwich area, $13,830 to 12 from the Windham area, and $417,892 to 184 students in the southeast region, based on donor-initiated selection criteria.
Mindful that there remains a growing need for assistance, we encourage others to support the foundation's efforts for scholarships and other worthy projects. With an endowment of $57 million the foundation has to date awarded more than $33 million in grants and scholarships to nonprofits and students in the region. Well done.