This spring, Colorado State University Online is introducing a new scholarship opportunity by rallying community support for online learners. As part of the Office of Engagement and Extension and CSU Extended Campus, CSU Online expands access to undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The new CSU Online Scholarship fund will serve as an additional financial resource for students.
Students pursuing a degree with CSU Online receive the same degree as their on-campus peers from the same professors. In addition to providing greater flexibility, tuition rates for CSU Online courses are the same for in-state and out-of-state students. Therefore, offering additional opportunities for financial support is a natural next step, said Karin Bright, an academic advisor with CSU Online.
“Access is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about this scholarship. As part of a land grant institution and as an online institution, our responsibility is to provide access beyond the boundaries of campus. Offering another scholarship helps provide financial access as well.” explained Bright.
Encouraging the “return to learning”
While CSU Online students are eligible for some scholarships through CSU that are connected to specific colleges or programs of study, there is currently only one other scholarship available specifically for students pursuing their degrees online, the John and Alex Snider Scholarship. Past recipients of that award demonstrate the impact that offering an additional scholarship award can have.
Snider understood the value in supporting distance learners, as well as the unique challenges they faced, and funded the endowment to serve as an on-going and permanent support for non-traditional CSU student taking credit courses via what is now called CSU Online. Snider encouraged students to “take the all-important first course and make their return to learning.” The new CSU Online Scholarship Fund builds on that legacy.
A story to tell
Every CSU Online student has a story to tell, but the recipient of the 2021 Snider Scholarship, Andrew Hetzel, embodies that character. Hetzel currently works in International Development, a second career motivated by the search for deeper meaning in his work. That meaning came from a familiar and personal love: coffee. He realized his interest extended beyond finding the perfect cup.
Exploring a completely new professional landscape, Hetzel found greater fulfilment working to understand the experience of coffee producers, using his knowledge to affect positive change in the industry.
“My interest in coffee gave way to a wider concern about disadvantages rural people and their reliance on subsistence farming for survival,” said Hetzel.
“My decision to return to college was motivated by the realization that my career had reached a turning point. To affect widescale change, I must be in a leadership position at a larger entity that has the capital to move markets… Any job title at this level is likely to require a master’s degree or higher. With only thirty or less good working years left, I had no time to delay. I now apply my knowledge in an attempt to fix market inequities on behalf of small coffee farmers as a government policy and trade consultant – but it’s still just the start.”
Hetzel’s story is a reminder of the countless reasons why online students seeking a flexible education take the step John Snider so passionately supported make their own return to learning. Like Hetzel, the average CSU Online degree-seeker has already started a career or is looking to advance or change careers. The average age for these students is 25-44, and many are also juggling parenthood, whether with a partner or as a single parent.
Supporting CSU Online students on their journey
Now, the CSU Online team hopes to expand the impact of scholarships, aiming to provide financial support to more students like Hetzel. After receiving an initial investment from the leadership at CSU Extended Campus, the team launched a crowdfunding campaign on May 9 to rally community support.
“CSU Online is about accessibility, and this type of fundraising is accessible to anyone. We hope any member of our community who cares about access to education will be able to chip in by donating the value of their morning coffee or sharing the campaign with their networks. Our goal is to gather additional partners to support CSU Online students on their journey.” said Danielle Keller, an academic advisor and member of the scholarship team.
The crowdfunding campaign will be live until May 27, though supporters can give to the CSU Online Scholarship Fund year-round. During this first fundraising push, the goal is to raise $5,000 and welcome the first round of students to apply during the next scholarship application period, which opens on October 1.
“Regardless of where you are learning, you’re a part of the Ram Family. We hope the CSU Online Scholarship will remove some financial barriers and welcome even more Rams,” Bright said.
To learn more about the CSU Online Scholarship Fund, visit https://ramfunder.colostate.edu/project/30620.
If you are interested in exploring additional ways to make an impact for CSU Online students through philanthropy, please reach out to Ali Eccleston, Assistant Director of Development for Engagement & Extension.