Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Sallie Mae, NAFEO Team Up to Reward Excellence in Writing

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Sallie Mae, NAFEO Team Up to Reward Excellence in Writing

Article excerpt

THERE'S SOMETHING A BIT THRILLING ABOUT LEARNING THAT THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR EQUAL OPPORTUNITY in Higher Education and the Sallie Mae Fund, the charitable arm of school loan leader Sallie Mae, are teaming up to fund scholarships rewarding excellence in writing. It could just be the fact that I'm a writer myself and know first-hand that writing skills can smooth the path to a rewarding, though not necessarily lucrative, career. But my usually healthy skepticism seems to have gone on holiday. Sallie Mae may indeed make a pretty penny off of the loans: $1.45 billion in net interest income in 2005 on a $127 billion portfolio of managed student loans, to be exact. But I still feel this urge to break out the pompons and burst into cheers.

The amounts of money dispersed by the Writers of Passage program are certainly small in the context of the fund's total charitable giving. They provide four $25,000 grants, with $5,000 going to the student essay writers and the rest to the schools to aid in recruitment and retention.

Five thousand dollars represents a real dent in tuition costs at Clark Atlanta University, which totaled $12,314 in 2002-2003. And the amount completely or nearly covers tuition at the other beneficiary schools: Alcorn State University in Lorman, Miss., with a 2001-2002 tuition of $4,100; Morris College, a Baptist institution in Sumter, S.C., with tuition costs of $6,483 in 2002-2003; and Sojourner-Douglass College in Baltimore, a school for adult learners with 2002-2003 tuition costs of $4,280.

"It's going to make a very large difference in my life;' says Michael Brockington, the winner from Alcorn State. The Baltimore native is a computer science major and rising sophomore in the Honors Program.

"I come from a low-income background," he says. "My mother's unemployed. My father's deceased. In my neighborhood and in my age group, I'm the only male in college. The only one. So by me receiving this scholarship, combined with my financial aid, it's giving me new hope that my dreams really will come true."

Brockington and the other essay writers--Chaqua Williamson of Clark Atlanta, Sharon Shivers of Sojourner-Douglass College and Yarbough Miller of Morris College--will find themselves sharing their dreams with potentially many others because that $20,000 each school receives for recruitment and retention is a gift with the potential to give for years to come. …

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