Higher Education Scholarships: Helping college students achieve their goals

Higher Education Scholarships: Helping college students achieve their goals

Oct 2017 | Higher Education

Supporting institutions of higher learning is central to the mission of the Koret Foundation. We believe that a college education has become more important than ever for individual success and mobility. We also believe that, collectively, these individual successes strengthen the community as a whole. Recently, the Foundation has heightened our focus on increasing access and on improving student retention and completion.

Early in 2016, we met with the heads of twelve Bay Area colleges and universities. They shared with us their priorities for increasing student success, particularly in underserved populations. As part of the collaboration, we customized a scholarship program for students with a demonstrated financial need at nine schools. Recipients include first-generation college attendees, underrepresented ethnicities, and veterans. The scholarships cover three types of support, depending on the school: living expenses, tuition, and research. At one school in particular, some students face daunting financial challenges.

City College of San Francisco: a beacon of hope for many

Founded in 1935, CCSF today serves more than 60,000 students a year. The school awards Associate degrees and certificates and offers a full range of coursework to prepare students for transfer to a four-year institution. CCSF is quite diverse, socio-economically as well as ethnically. Comparatively few students are “typical college coeds,” and slightly more than half the student body is aged 25 or over. Many of them juggle work, school, and family responsibilities. Although CCSF tuition is free for students who are both San Francisco and California residents (and minimal for most other students), many students are continually stretched thin financially due to additional costs associated with attending college.

“I am a United States Air Force veteran with seven years of total service, and I am currently aiming to transfer to UC Berkeley or SFSU to get my bachelor’s degree in environmental studies/science to fight for the preservation of our planet.”

Maria Hale

CCSF Koret Scholar 2016

“I am bringing my daughter to see me get this scholarship today. One of my biggest goals in life is to teach her that she can complete school and become whatever she wants to be. I want her to know that she can pass me up.”

Elizabeth Pete

CCSF Koret Scholar 2016

"As an immigrant, I have been working at least 24 hours a week since I came to the U.S. in 2014 so that I can get money to support my study and my family. Your scholarship makes me believe that if I study hard and work hard enough, I will get lots of opportunities and help to pursue my dream.”

Xiaofeng Qiu

CCSF Koret Scholar 2016

“I just exhausted my state disability benefits and was contemplating reducing my class load in the spring to save money. Your funds will allow me to keep my full class load and full-time status. (I am pleased to inform you that last semester I was able to maintain my 4.0 GPA and to qualify for the Dean’s List.)”

Douglas Dubé

CCSF Koret Scholar 2016

“This scholarship will help me to worry less about my financial burdens and focus more on my studies. I can better take care of myself and my loved ones. I no longer receive the Pell Grant and cannot take out federal loans, so this money is much appreciated.”

Wade Burns

CCSF Koret Scholar 2016

“I do not have to work as many hours after school to pay for my tuitions. Also, prior to receiving this award, I was hesitant in taking art classes because of the cost of all the art supplies. Thanks to this award, however, I can freely take any class I wish and pursue what I love doing most: drawing.”

Walter Wong

CCSF Koret Scholar 2016

How it works

At CCSF, the Koret Scholars program awards one hundred students per year a $1,000 scholarship. Students may use the funds for whatever they need; recipients one year may also apply for a second, consecutive year. Any qualifying full-time student with demonstrated financial need is eligible to apply. Additional criteria set by CCSF include enrollment status, academic performance, and intent to transfer to a four-year college.

Kristin Charles, Associate Vice Chancellor of Institutional Development, confirms, “For low-income CCSF students, a small grant can have a great impact. This may make the difference between continuing and abandoning their studies, their career goals, their dreams.”

How it helps

For recipients, scholarship funds help overcome a broad range of obstacles to academic success, including childcare and eldercare. Transportation can also be a challenge, from refilling your transit pass to repairing your car. If you don’t have a laptop and current software, you are at another disadvantage. Textbook prices continue to rise—as does the cost of housing.

Reducing these worries can be dramatic, psychologically as well as financially. A Koret Scholar may be able to work fewer hours per week. Working fewer hours may free up the time to take more units. Taking more units may in fact enable a student to complete necessary transfer credits a semester sooner.

Looking ahead

Our University Partners Initiative is now in its second year. The Koret Scholars program at CCSF will be funded for four years; each of the other eight schools will be funded for either three or four years. Across the nine schools, this support totals almost $1 million per year. At the conclusion of the four-year initiative, grantees and the Foundation will assess the impact of the scholarships.

By 2020, more than 1,500 Koret Scholars at nine Bay Area institutions will have received financial support to help them advance their academic goals. We wish these students perseverance and success.


The main campus of City College of San Francisco, founded in 1935. CCSF also has nine satellite locations throughout the city.