University Foundation helps alleviate debt stress

Caitlin Restelli

A well-known fact among students is that debt may be a part of their lives once they graduate college. A simple way to avoid high debt: scholarships.

The University Foundation, a non-profit organization established in 1965, strives to help Kent State students graduate with little debt by establishing scholarships, said Bernadine Zapytowski, University Foundation senior accountant.

According to its website, the foundation is legally separated from the university, but it receives gifts on behalf of the university for funds and scholarships.

Donors interested in either creating a scholarship or providing money to previously made scholarships work with the foundation.

“Our advancement officers work one-on-one with donors to Kent State to establish a scholarship,” Gene Finn, vice president for Institutional Advancement, wrote in an email.

Foundation employees work with the donors to establish the donors’ preferred requirements, such as class standing, GPA, etc.

During the time Finn has been involved with the foundation, he said no one has ever been turned away from creating a scholarship.

“The only reason we would do so is if a donor wanted to put an unacceptable restriction on a fund, such as a scholarship that would be discriminatory in some way,” Finn wrote.

Zapytwoski said the donor’s requirements must allow a wide range of students to be eligible for the scholarship.

“You can’t set up a memorandum of understanding so that only one specific person can get it,” said Zapytowski.

When creating a scholarship, a donor must create a minimum endowment of $25,000 before the scholarship can be distributed to a student, said Zapytowski.

The time it takes to create a scholarship is “donor driven,” said Zapytowski.

Donors are permitted to reach the $25,000 in any way they wish. For example, they can add $5,000 into the scholarship fund every year for five years, and once it reaches the $25,000, the scholarship can be distributed.

Zapytowski said the University Foundation recently changed its policy. Once the scholarship fund reaches $25,000, it can be distributed 12 months later rather than 18 months; however, donors can wait 18 months if they wish.

“Endowments distribute their income over a 36-month, rolling-average period, and they get roughly 5 percent of what the endowment has earned,” Zapytowski said.

Two and a half percent is distributed at the end of November and another 2.5 percent at the end of May.

Non-endowed gifts can also be made and can be made at any price level. They are one-time scholarships and do not need to reach the minimum $25,000 before being distributed.

After the scholarships are made, Zapytowski oversees the funds and works closely with financial aid and individual administrators throughout the university and throughout the other campuses.

“We establish scholarships that meet the needs of Kent State students,” Finn wrote. “Those needs are communicated to the donors who must make the decision of whether or not they want to give a gift to fund the scholarship.”

Contact Caitlin Restelli at [email protected]