Monday marked the beginning of Teacher Appreciation Week across the U.S., however members of Central Michigan University's Faculty Association instead are showing appreciation to their students. They have established a scholarship endowment as a gesture of respect, appreciation and gratitude for CMU students' unwavering support of faculty throughout the years.
Faculty association members have a short-term goal of raising $25,000, which will enable them to grant the first scholarship to a student in Fall 2015. Their long-term goal is to grow the endowment to $2 million, at which point they would be able to give $1,000 scholarships to nearly 100 undergraduates each year.
So far, nearly $22,000 has been donated to the scholarship endowment. In October, CMU will match donations made with 50 cents for every $1 donated as part of the Annual University Campaign — as it did last fall.
Bryan Griffin, CMU director of annual giving and online engagement, said the endowment represents the passion and commitment of CMU faculty to positively impact students.
"The fact that the Faculty Association has collected more than $20,000 in endowment donations in four months' time via crowdfunding is unique, impressive and a testament to their commitment to CMU students," Griffin said.
The scholarship fund illustrates the faculty's commitment to student success and understanding of increasing financial burdens students may face with increasing educational expenses.
English language and literature professor Daniel Patterson said the idea for a student endowment began four years ago after the fall 2011 semester.
"This endowment is a living emblem of our respect for our students and our gratitude for their support," Patterson said. "This fund acknowledges that we care about the expenses they incur while pursuing their education at CMU. It will tell them that their professors want to help in a tangible way and will strengthen the already strong bond between faculty and students."
Close to 80 percent of CMU's 27,000 students receive some form of financial aid.
Social work professor Susan Grettenberger said she's watched students struggle to stay awake in her class after working all night because they need to earn money for school expenses. She also said she has encountered other students who want to study abroad but who are afraid the extra cost of travel is out of their reach.
"Students are at the heart of the university, and CMU's faculty wants to help them succeed," Grettenberger said. "For many of our students, the barrier to success is lack of adequate funds. Through our union, CMU's Faculty Association, we are joining together to create an endowed scholarship fund that will always be here to help students fund their education."
Last year, CMU increased its merit scholarships by $6 million. Financial aid packages were re-engineered to award more and larger merit scholarships to prospective students. With this increase, the university invested a record $61 million in making college education more accessible and affordable for families. Close to $300 million in private, state and federal financial aid awards and grants also were distributed.
The 2015 Annual University Campaign is scheduled to kick off on Oct. 12.