Three days into the summer term of his junior year at BYU-Idaho, Ryan Griffi n lost his balance while running lines on the basketball court in a PE class, fell against a wall, and broke the top two vertebrae in his neck, leaving him a quadriplegic. "I look just like Christopher Reeve," he says with a smile.
Originally from Farmington, New Mexico, his family moved to Provo after Ryan's accident, so he could live with them and attend BYU. Still, attending was not easy. Before his accident, he worked on a farm in Rexburg to help pay for school, but he can not do that now. Fortunately, a Signature Scholarship makes up for his lost income, making it possible for him to return to school. "I learned about the scholarship through the disabilities office at BYU," Ryan says.
It currently costs an average of $41,200.00 to put a full-time student through BYU, a high price to pay if you are a single parent, a disabled student, or one of the many students who, for a variety of reasons, have neither the personal nor the familial resources to pay for college.
To help bridge the gap between available resources and educational need, BYU has developed a number of ways for donors to help students finance their college education (see Just the Facts). Three methods allow donors to put their personal stamp on their gift. Historically, a donor could only do that by setting up an endowment fund, an expensive proposition for many. Recently BYU created the more affordable Signature Scholarships and Signature Mentorships, both of which allow donors to name their donation in honor of a family member or loved one, even as they open up life-changing opportunities for the students they help.
|JUST THE FACTS:
Minimum donation of $40,000 over five years (will increase to $50,000 on January 1, 2009); some endowments have higher minimums. May name endowment in honor of family member or loved one, as approved by BYU. Endowments yield a half tuition award.
$18,000 over four years ($4,500 per year). Named by donor.
SIGNATURE MENTORSHIP: $24,000 over four years ($6,000 per year). Named by donor.
Donors can also give directly to a college's annual fund or to a departmental gift account. They may also make donations through their will, charitable remainder unitrust, charitable gift annuities, and other planned gifts.
BYU alumni Dr. Tom and Karen Fife of Merced, California learned about Signature Scholarships through a good friend. Over the years, they had contributed a little here and a little there to BYU, but the Signature Scholarship allowed them to focus their giving. They got excited and told other Merced alumni about the opportunity. They even set up meetings in their home for BYU's Annual Giving office to meet with other potential donors. "For us the Signature Scholarship is like the Perpetual Education Fund," Karen says. "While we were at BYU we knew that other people were helping to pay for our education either through tithing or scholarships. So now that we have raised our family and are somewhat successful, it only seems right to give back and help others."
Unlike Signature Scholarships, Signature Mentorships are not need based. Instead, they are designed to give students—typically juniors and seniors—an opportunity to design and carry out a research project. Such projects help students better define career objectives, while they gain experience they may not have otherwise. Mentorships also benefit students who plan on pursuing professional degrees. "Mentorships and scholarships are all about helping people," says Darla Seamons, Associate Director of BYU's Annual Giving. "They're great!"
Scholarships, mentorships, and endowments are only a few ways donors can assist students. Every contribution makes a difference, no matter the size, because in many cases financial assistance is the only way students are able to attend school. "The cost of BYU tuition can be out of reach for some students," Seamons explains. "A donor's contribution can make all the difference in helping an individual realize their educational goals and dreams." Like the Fifes, Ryan Griffin appreciates the sacrifice others have made, so he can get an education. A fighter, he says he would have found a way to go to school if the scholarship had not materialized, but it "certainly made it a lot easier." Once he earns his degree in Organizational Behavior, he figures it will be time to give back as well. "I am grateful that there are people willing to donate," he says. "After I graduate, I hope to do the same."