Million dollar gift to adults seeking return to college


The $1 million check provided by The Bernard Osher Foundation to support the Adult Focus program at The University of Akron will help deliver on the dreams of hundreds of degree-seeking adults for years to come. The gift sets up an endowment intended to provide at least $50,000 in Osher Reentry Scholarships to at least 20 adult students who meet certain criteria:

  • They have experienced a cumulative gap in their education of 5 or more years
  • They are pursuing their first baccalaureate degree
  • They are generally between 25 and 50 years of age and plan to enter the workforce upon graduation
  • They demonstrate financial need, academic promise and commitment to obtaining a degree

Since 2008, UA has applied yearly to the Osher Foundation for a grant of up to $50,000 to support adult reentry to college. Of the 83 colleges in 44 states receiving the Osher Reentry Scholarships, UA is the only college in Ohio. UA's success in effectively administering the grants and demonstrating impressive student outcomes persuaded the foundation to provide the $1 million endowment, along with a $50,000 bridge grant for the 2012-13 academic year (to allow the endowment to grow to support future scholarships).

Welcome boost for those who qualify

According to Andy Lynch, program officer, The Bernard Osher Foundation, "The Osher Reentry Scholarship Program is an important initiative at the foundation. We are very pleased to award an endowment grant to The University of Akron to assist nontraditional students in completing their degrees and realizing their dreams."

The Osher Reentry Scholarship is part of a comprehensive UA Adult Focus program, which has grown rapidly to include 5,931 undergraduate students age 25 and older, an 18 percent increase from fall 2008. UA Adult Focus provides intensive advising for reentry students and multiple scholarship opportunities. 

The comprehensive nature of the program, the commitment by the UA Provost's office to match the annual $50,000 Osher Foundation grant, and the persuasive testimonials of scholarship recipients were key elements to the awarding of the endowment. 

  • Former Marine Aleks J. Sowa II wrote, “Not since my time in the Marines have I had a feeling of accomplishment and living like I do now. My decision to return to school has been the best thing that I could have ever done for my future, my family's future and my own personal happiness. The University of Akron truly is a place where it is never too late for your dreams to come true."
  • For 33-year old Joshua Jackson, the Osher Scholarship has allowed him to pursue the dream of a career in clinical dietetics. “Even though the scholarship was monetary, it was actually a gift of time. It allowed me to work less, focus more on my academics and become more involved in college life," wrote Jackson in a letter to the Osher Foundation.
  • Sandra Kiizee is pursuing a biology degree and plans on becoming a pharmacist: "Our family has never had anyone finish college and I would be the first, even if it has taken me 20 years longer than the average person."

Balancing demands; overcoming obstacles

"We are thrilled that The Bernard Osher Foundation selected UA to receive what is essentially a guarantee of vital funding for these deserving students," says Laura Conley, director of the UA Adult Focus program.  "This is a very special group of men and women who have typically overcome many obstacles in their lives, have worked hard to support families, and truly appreciate our guidance and support to return to college and be successful in obtaining a degree that can literally transform their lives."

UA Adult Focus offers a New Student Orientation specifically for adult and veteran students and a Student Success Seminar course that has proven to positively impact persistence rates year to year. "We set our students up for success. Many of our reentry students may have done poorly their first time in college. We talk about how to 'fix' the situation and reinvent themselves, connecting with instructors who can provide references and getting involved on campus to build an academic resume for purposes of scholarship, internships and ultimately, employment."

Since 2008, the total number of adult students at UA who were awarded scholarships has grown from 278 to 391, a near 41 percent increase in students served, along with a 39 percent increase in funding they have received. 

For a more personal look at the current class of Osher Scholarship recipients, go to UA Adult Focus.

Media contact: Eileen Korey, 330-972-6476 or