“The reason why I didn’t go to school right after high school is because I couldn’t afford it, and my parents couldn’t afford it.”
That could be the voice of any number of CCV students, but in this story, it’s the voice of Fathima Salahudeen, a STEM studies major who immigrated to Vermont from Sri Lanka in 2008. Seven years later, she began taking classes at CCV-Winooski. This fall, she transferred to Smith College, where she’d been accepted into the Ada Comstock Scholars Program. She is studying biochemistry in hopes of eventually becoming a pharmacologist.
Salahudeen says that CCV was the perfect fit: as the single mother of a three-year-old daughter, Salahudeen needed flexibility. She was also pleased to find that many of her classmates here were also non-traditional.
She’ll have more of the same flexibility, as well as incredible academic opportunities, at Smith—when she visited campus, she learned about study abroad, internships, and research alongside professors. And most importantly, the Scholars Program pays for her tuition. “It’s a dream for me,” she said. “I didn’t know there were programs like this, so it’s literally a dream to be able to go to college and to have an affordable education. It’s a big deal.”
Salahudeen’s story illustrates a common challenge. While many schools give out substantial amounts of money in the form of scholarships and grants, in many cases, students simply don’t know about these opportunities. And even with scholarships, grants, and other forms of aid, the financial burden of college often remains prohibitive. That’s why student support has been a major priority for CCV since its inception.
In 2016 alone, CCV awarded over $200,000 in scholarships to more than 500 students, with the average award totaling $400 per student. Assistant Director of Financial Aid Ryan Dulude says that the number of awards given by CCV has increased dramatically in recent years. “The number of students we give scholarships to per year has increased by more than 250% in the last five years, and the dollars we’ve awarded have increased by more than 240%,” said Dulude. “At the same time, we’ve changed our application from paper to a more simplified electronic one. This has helped open up the opportunity to more students applying and given us a wider pool of applicants.” He also reported that 65% of students who graduated from CCV in the last year did so with no debt.
CCV offers two types of scholarships. The first is a fund, provided either by the College or by generous donors that give to the College; examples include the Student Assistance Fund and the General Scholarship Fund. CCV also has endowed scholarships, which are established in consultation with donors and are invested to produce income. Examples of these scholarships include the Student Success Scholarship and the Karen Raylene Clark Memorial Scholarship. Director of Resource Development Aimee Stephenson says that CCV’s first endowed scholarship fund was established in 1989 to create a President’s Scholarship Fund. Ten years later, CCV established the Endowment for Student Success with a gift of $25,000. Today, endowments provide just over $90,000 in scholarships for students.
Newport student Nick Helms was the recipient of this year’s President’s Scholarship, a $1,250 award recognizing sustained academic excellence. Helms is a STEM studies major and wants to pursue a career that involves computers and technology. He said, “Receiving this scholarship means a lot to me. I’ve put in hard work and I guess I’m happy to see that [that] it paid off. [The scholarship] allows me to finish up my degree without having to worry as much about the cost.” And Helms said the award has another important benefit. “It also gives me a confidence boost which will help me as I finish up the last few semesters of classes.” He plans to stay in Vermont to pursue a bachelor’s degree in a STEM-related field.
Dulude says that in addition to CCV’s internal scholarships, students can apply for scholarships through the Vermont State Colleges System or the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, the latter of which awards more than 300 scholarships to Vermont students each year. And, of course—as in Salahudeen’s case—CCV students can receive funding from schools they transfer into, or from other external sources.
Visit CCV’s Scholarships page to read about all of our scholarship offerings and find out how to apply.
Visit our Career Services page to learn more about people and tools that are available to help you plan for, launch, or transform your career.
Alumni, Neighbors, and Friends:
Visit CCV’s Ways to Give page to find out more about supporting CCV students.
CCV Students, Staff, and Faculty:
Resource Coordinator Connie Beal is available to help any member of the CCV community access information about housing, transportation, public benefits, heath care, financial help, food, utility assistance, or child care. She is at CCV Winooski on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to1 p.m. in Room 211D inside the Learning Center. She’s also available by phone or email if you’re not in the Burlington area: 802-881-4218 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Brattleboro student Moussoumakan Diallo was surprised this spring when she found out that she was the recipient of a $2,500 award. The Jesse M. Corum IV Scholarship is funded by the Brattleboro Rotary Club in memory of Jesse Corum, a longtime Rotarian who was committed to supporting local education. Diallo participated in CCV’s College to Careers program, which partners with Brattleboro Memorial Hospital to offer an accelerated path to a medical assisting certificate. She was awarded the BMH scholarship at the outset of this program, and has been employed by the hospital since completing the course. She decided to finish out her degree at CCV, and says the additional funding provided by the Jesse Corum scholarship is a huge boost. “I almost cried,” she says of the day she found out she’d been awarded the scholarship. “I didn’t believe it.” In addition to working full-time at BMH’s Putney Family Healthcare and attending classes, she holds down two other part-time jobs.
Both of Diallo’s scholarships have helped relieve the burden that college puts on her family’s finances. “Anything and everything is helpful,” she said, recalling that the added support has sometimes made the difference between being able to afford groceries or not. She says she’s grateful for the resources she’s been able to tap into at CCV. “If you want to learn, there are all kinds of ways to help,” she said. Her 18-year-old son will join his mother as a college student this fall; his grades and talent on the football field earned him a full ride at Bentley University in Massachusetts.
Christine Zachai has worked with CCV as a philanthropic advisor through her company Forward Philanthropy since 2013. She represents many of CCV’s donors, and says that higher education “is a longer term investment in positive gain for the future. We need to feed people and we need to shelter people today, and also we need to support people in taking every step they can possibly take to improve their lives. Especially people who are facing multiple barriers.” To that end, she recently helped facilitate the establishment of CCV’s new Life and Loan Gap Grants program, which is made possible by a $50,000 donation, and which she says was inspired by “an understanding that CCV is serving those students in Vermont who are going to be able to sustain the most dramatic changes and impacts in their life as a result of accessing higher education.”
Zachai noted that for most students, there is a complex set of factors influencing college affordability, but she said that CCV’s acknowledgement of this complexity goes a long way. “I’m always impressed with how well staff know their audience. They know the demographics of the students, they know who’s attending CCV, and they don’t just know them as students, they understand them as multi-faceted people with a whole spectrum of things going on in their lives, some of which are really challenging, and they understand how that whole spectrum of activities in somebody’s life affects their ability to access higher education.”
By this description, Fathima Salahudeen, Nicholas Helms, and Moussoumakan Diallo are today’s average college students: multi-faceted people with a wide range of important things going on in their lives, for whom a degree or a credential is a goal, a dream, or simply a part of the plan—but one that is all too often foregone because of a price tag. They are just three of the many students for whom scholarships make the difference.
Salahudeen acknowledges that access to scholarships and other financial aid opportunities can often be challenging because of a lack of information. She enthusiastically encouraged her peers to seek help and ask questions. “There are scholarships that we don’t know about. I think it’s always good to talk to your advisor. See what’s out there…I didn’t know a lot of these things and I spoke to my advisor and she recommended all of these things.” There are also dedicated financial aid advisors at every CCV location. “There are so many resources at CCV,” said Salahudeen, “there’s Career Services; there’s [a] United Way helper, who helped me with pretty much everything; there’s a lot of help out there.”