USC’s SCholars program facing a hazy future

first_imgSenior Stephanie Garcia is the first in her family to attend college. She began at Los Angeles Community College, and transferred to USC in her sophomore year with the help of the SCholars program — a program that helps first-generation and low-income students transfer to four-year universities.Since coming to USC, Garcia has been actively involved with the SCholars program, even bringing her younger sister to events with her. She hopes the events will eventually inspire her sister to attend a four-year school.SCholarly · Juana Escobar, a junior majoring in communication, transferred from Los Angeles City College through the SCholars program. – Dieuwertje Kast | Daily TrojanBut unless the program manages to quickly raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, Garcia’s sister might not have the same opportunity.“If I wouldn’t have known and been a part of the SCholars, I would’ve still been struggling,” Garcia said. “They helped with a lot of the challenges we face as transfer students, but also as a lot of first-generation college students. A lot of us did have a hard time transferring, academically and socially, and they’ve definitely been there to help bridge that gap.”The SCholars program was established at USC in 2006, spurred by a grant of almost $1 million. But the money, given by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, was a one-time grant. Now that the funds from the grant have run out, the program’s future is in jeopardy.The program takes about $200,000-$250,000 per year to run, according to Judi Garbuio, associate dean of the Academic Recognition and Scholars Program. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, in the midst of financial difficulty, has said it will not renew the grant, so the SCholars program is looking for an alternative source of funding.“We’re working on it, trying to seek funds from other foundations, and we’ve also been engaged in fundraising from private parties willing to support the cause,” said K.C. Mmeje, the SCholars program director. “We’re trying to get the university to see that what we’re doing is important enough for them to provide support to sustain the program, but we’re not seeing that right now.”Because the program has been funded entirely by sources outside of USC so far, it is looking to other external sources first. Garbuio said asking USC for funding would be a last resort, because they are aware of the many other programs aiming to get money from the university. She was not optimistic about other sources of funding, either.“It’s a very tough time to be fundraising,” Garbuio said. “Different individuals have suffered with the economy, so they’re not as likely to donate to foundations, which are in turn not as likely to give out grants.”Like Garcia, Roland Zapata, a junior majoring in psychology and a member of the SCholars program, said the program has been a defining part of his educational experience and hopes that it finds a way to stay afloat.“It’s a transition program, essentially, it’s a baby-step thing, perfect for someone like me,” Zapata said. “I was asking all these weird questions and I was getting answers.”The SCholars program offers students counseling resources and group events to help them succeed socially and academically.“Without it, who knows if I would’ve even ended up here,” Zapata said. “People say that as a joke, ‘Who knows where I’d be,’ but really. Even once I got here, it’s been a big jump from community college … Even if I had gotten here without it, without that support to fall back on, I would’ve been like, ‘OK, I’m dropping this, I’m out.’”Cheryl Armstrong, director of the University Transfer Center at Los Angeles City College, said the program is important to students and believes that it should be a priority for it to continue to function.“If I had a pot of money set aside, this would be a priority in terms of making sure this program continues,” she said. “Students who go through this specific program tend to apply to select universities, tend to enroll and complete the work and go on to graduate school. It provides the transition information that students need who might not have succeeded otherwise.”The grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation extends through August 2010, so students currently in community colleges entering USC next year will still go through the SCholar program’s summer immersion session.The immersion program, however, will put more emphasis on pointing out resources on campus they can turn to in case the SCholars office is available next fall.Still, Garbuio said she believes in the program.“I’m still hopeful,” she said. “I really believe it’s a fantastic program, and that we’ll figure out a way to keep it going.”last_img

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