It seems like we just finished congratulating the class of 2023, but it is already time to reacquaint ourselves with local school zones and prepare for another school year. No group is more excited to begin the school year than the Class of 2024. This final year of high school will be filled with memories and a long list of lasts…the last season for senior athletes, last plays, last dances, and last exams. As the Class of 2024 marks off each milestone, they are also finalizing plans for the next chapter of their lives. Many members of the Class of 2024 will continue their education beyond high school as they pursue additional credentials such as technical certifications or advanced degrees offered through colleges, universities, and technical schools.

According to the Lumina Foundation, “By 2025, 60 percent of adults in the United States will need some quality credential beyond high school.” The State of Texas has shown progress toward this goal by increasing the rate of educational attainment by 16.4 percent since 2009, but the current rate of 49.6 percent of students having obtained credentials beyond a high school diploma still falls short of the U.S. average of 53.7 percent, and also short of the overall 60 percent goal. Career training and dual credit programs offered in high school are helping close the gap for students prior to high school graduation, but many students will still pursue further education and credentials after graduation.

Not only are seniors applying to be admitted to college or post-high school training programs, but they are also counting the costs and evaluating their options to pay for their education. Government grants, student loans, and scholarships are needed to help many students reach their academic goals, and for the Class of 2024, this final year of high school is the time they will research diligently to identify and apply for financial assistance. Our staff at East Texas Communities Foundation will be making visits to many East Texas high schools this fall to give advice to these eager students and explain the process to apply for nearly 100 unique scholarships offered through the Foundation. The best thing about these scholarships is that they are grants, not loans. Loans require repayment, but grants are free gifts that are applied directly to school costs such as tuition, room, and board. This past Spring the Foundation was pleased to award over $800,000 to 240 students selected from over 4,000 scholarship applications. What a blessing these generous donors provided for these students and their families.  

When it comes to administering scholarships, the process often begins when a donor recognizes the value of their own education and begins to inquire about how they can set up a scholarship to help students reach their full potential. When these donors contact us or are referred to us by their trusted financial advisors, we are privileged to listen to their stories of success and achievement and craft a unique scholarship program to provide financial support for the next generation of students. For some students, a scholarship award will help them meet their financial obligations at a local junior college or technical school, but for others, a scholarship may allow them to launch into a career debt-free or go directly to a university rather than first attending a junior college. Each student’s path is unique and scholarships can significantly alter their trajectory. Relationships built with professors and classmates create lifelong networks for students, and something as simple as a scholarship that allows a student to attend school full-time, without having to hold down a job, can foster priceless networking opportunities.    If you have ever thought about setting up a scholarship to help students reach their full potential, now is the time to take action if you want to help the Class of 2024. The window is closing quickly to establish scholarships that can be awarded in the Spring of 2024. Of course, we welcome the opportunity to set up a new scholarship any day of the year, but because we start promoting scholarships to each new senior class in the fall, we are quickly approaching a deadline for our marketing efforts to be effective. We may miss opportunities to talk with students and school counselors about your scholarship, and students may miss the opportunity to learn about it if it is not created before the new school year gets too far along. As the new school year gets underway, perhaps establishing a scholarship fund to benefit a deserving student from the Class of 2024 is your next best opportunity to Give Well.