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Opinion: College Scholarships Can Break Generational Cycles of Poverty

OpinionOpinion: College Scholarships Can Break Generational Cycles of Poverty

College graduateA college graduate waving her diploma. Photo via Pixabay

Having an education pays, but for students who can’t afford to pursue post-secondary education, it’s a catch-22 with devastating consequences.

A report by ReUp Education found that on average, people with a bachelor’s degree earn about $30,000 more each year compared with those with a high school diploma only. That works out to more than $1 million more over a lifetime of work. The findings showed that even an associate’s degree has an impact on earning power.

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Students from low-income families pursuing post-secondary education need better access to more high-quality scholarships to reduce the financial burden of pursuing their academic goals and break generational cycles of poverty. Scholarships also help enrolled students who may have been forced to put academic dreams on hold for financial, caregiving or employment loss.

Expanding the availability of robust scholarship opportunities is at the heart of the Allgire Foundation‘s mission. Our parent company, Allgire General Contractors, also works on some of the foundational issues that contribute to educational access and outcomes.

Addressing Barriers to Education at Their Roots

For families of low-income backgrounds and individuals from underrepresented communities, barriers to educational advancement often present themselves well before students reach scholarship age. For instance, a lack of affordable housing options can often disrupt family stability, cause frequent relocation, and erode access to educational advancement. In many cases, the educational “cards” are stacked against these families from the start. 

Carlsbad-based Allgire General Contractors has been building affordable housing communities for over 30 years. We’ve seen firsthand that when residents move into their new apartments, they often lack basic items needed for a new home.

During the pandemic, we realized there was a greater need in these communities that went beyond the basic home necessities we had usually helped provide. Instead, it had more to do with educational opportunities that could change life outcomes.

Our scholarship program addresses some of those needs because we believe transforming lives begins with education. Some Allgire Foundation scholarship recipients are hardworking individuals, juggling work, school, and family and caregiving commitments; others are recent high school graduates with dreams of a better future through the opportunities afforded by post-secondary degrees.

How Scholarships Transform Lives

University of San Diego student Angel Mendoza was one of the first students to receive a scholarship from the Allgire Foundation earlier this year. Angel’s story is familiar. Like so many other students in our community and across the nation, he’s in diligent pursuit of his degree while simultaneously working full time to support his family.

Angel is working toward a master’s degree in nursing to elevate his family to higher economic ground and to help underrepresented communities, like the affordable housing developments in which he grew up.

His story is unique in that he has not let the financial circumstances or disadvantages he has faced throughout his life discourage him. With the scholarship awarded to him by the Allgire Foundation, Angel was able to pay for a portion of his USD tuition. 

Scholarship Programs Must Evolve to Meet Changing Needs

As students like Angel know too well, investing in higher education involves much more than paying for tuition and books alone. What is special about our scholarship program — and what we believe could impact students from low-income backgrounds and underrepresented communities everywhere — is that there are no restrictions on how award money can be used.

Recipients can just as easily use Allgire Foundation scholarship funds for tuition or books as they can for rent, transportation, food, or other needs. Moreover, with inflation rates at an all-time high, the benefit of students having additional cash in their pockets for necessary expenses cannot be overstated.

Students of low-income backgrounds need better access to scholarships to help break generational cycles that can keep them at a sustained disadvantage. We can all play a role in helping make that happen — whether we work in organizations with philanthropic budgets for new scholarships or we’re individuals with the ability to donate or share information on opportunities we become aware of with our networks. These opportunities need to be flexible, as it is critical to meet these individuals where they are in their academic journey and at the right time.

Scott Silber is the executive director of the Allgire Foundation. He has been part of the Allgire General Contractors family for 22 years.

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