With student-loan debt reaching $1 trillion dollars in the United States and student need constantly growing, the UNC Charlotte Faculty Council has unanimously approved a voluntary faculty scholarship fund to ease the pressures of student debt.
The Faculty Legacy Scholarship is aimed at meeting all UNC Charlotte students’ financial needs. Starting with small donations from faculty that accumulate over time, the fund’s goal is to eventually pay tuition and fees for all UNC Charlotte students.
“The vision is to the point where students, all students who are attending or want to attend the university, who have need, will in fact have the need covered,” said Al Maisto a Bonnie Cone Distinguished Psychology Professor who helped design the fund.
Starting this fall, faculty will have the option to give monthly or per-paycheck donations to the scholarship fund.
According to Maisto and Michael Green, current UNC Charlotte Faculty President, in its early years the scholarship fund will award a limited number of scholarships to the students with the most financial hardship.
During this time the scholarship fund is designed to spend 30 percent of the fund on scholarships and place the remaining 70 percent in an endowment. With time they hope that the endowment and its interest will grow to support the scholarship’s greater vision of paying for every UNC Charlotte student.
Assuming that at least half of the faculty donates $20 of each of their paychecks Green and Maisto estimate the scholarship fund could grow to $120,000 the first year and $30 million dollars after 20 years.
“Now your talking about spending not just the 30 percent, we will start pulling the interest off of this thing which is a few million dollars a year,” said Maisto.
Maisto and Green said the faculty has shown an unusual amount of enthusiasm about the scholarship fund compared to its typical legislation. An ad-hoc committee drafted the scholarship fund in only six weeks.
“Many people would not see it so clearly because normally you spend your first month just trying to schedule a meeting, and then some come. This was the case of ‘we’ve got to get it done in six weeks who can come?’ Well everybody came,”said Maisto.
The faculty’s enthusiasm surprised Maisto and Green considering UNC Charlotte professors have not received a raise in four years. They said this is evidence of the faculty’s passion for giving students access to affordable education.
“This is something the faculty are doing for the students,” said Maisto. “It’s not something we are doing for the University. That line we have been rather clear in drawing.”
Both professors said the faculty feels a need to leave a legacy with the UNC Charlotte community once they retire. They want the fund to become a measurable way for faculty to give back.
“If you look around there are a lot of faculty who retire and go away and they are moderately pissed because they don’t feel highly valued by administration or even by their colleagues anymore. They look around and there is no real measurable change in this University that they helped build.”
Green hopes students become a catalyst to increase faculty donations. He says one simple questions from students to their professors can drive donations.
“‘Are you participating in the Faculty Legacy Scholarship?’ And if the answer is ‘no,’ then follow up is ‘why not?’ And if the faculty member says ‘yes,’ the students say, ‘thank you’,” said Green.
Maisto and Green know that their goal of paying for every student is a lofty one, but they think given time and faculty cooperation this scholarship fund can reach its vision.
“We can’t fix it in a week, we can’t fix it in a decade, we may be can fix it in 50 years, but the idea is to give it a start,” said Maisto.