Money issues force SCholars program to fold

A program that many community college transfers say was vital to their USC experience is now on the chopping block, another victim of the tough economy.

For four years, the SCholars Program at USC has helped bring community college transfers to the university and integrate them into USC life. But the program’s funding, which came from a $1 million grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, has run dry.

Organizers searched extensively for a solution but found only dead ends. Now, they have announced the end of the SCholars Program.

“We have tried just about every angle and unfortunately, because of the economy and other factors, we will not be able to continue as of August 2010,” said Judi Garbuio, associate dean of Academic Recognition and Scholars Programs..

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation gave USC the grant in 2006 to establish the SCholars Program. It was designed to help first-generation and low-income students transfer to a four-year university by providing programs to introduce them to the curriculum, as well as to pay for the additional academic costs of attending USC.

USC began looking for another source of funding when it realized money was running out. The program needs between $200,000 and $250,000 per year to run, and the foundation could not renew the grant.

“Unfortunately, nobody has an extra $250,000 to give out,” Garbuio said.

For students currently in the SCholars Program, the end of the program means the end of their extra help and extra funding.

“These students go through financial aid for their tuition for USC, but SCholars helps them do exceptional things,” Garbuio said.

Garbuio said the SCholars Program held a number of events for its students, connecting them with faculty and aiding them with their academics.

“Our big cornerstone was the immersion week where they come to school two weeks before and go through a Writing 340 boot camp and do programs to acclimate them,” Garbuio said.

The SCholars Program also helped its participants by funding some of the extra expenses that might not have been covered by financial aid.

“They will not have some of the exceptional funding and programs,” Garbuio said. “Books, grants, attending conferences within their discipline, as well as paying for honors societies that they get accepted to but cannot afford will not be able to be provided through the program.”

Another important aspect of the SCholars Program is its work with local community colleges. The program reached out to a number of community colleges in the area to encourage students to consider attending four-year universities and to let students know what opportunities were available to them.

Garbuio said the end of the SCholars Program could affect the number of transfer applications USC receives from these community colleges.

“We will still have a large number of transfer applications, but we probably wont get as many of these types of students,” Garbuio said.

Since its establishment, the SCholars Program has provided opportunities to more than 60 students.

“Many of the students credit the program to helping them even come to USC,” said K.C. Mmeje, the SCholars Program director.

Mmeje said a number of the SCholars participants are disappointed the program is coming to a close.

“Obviously the students want the program to continue, but they understand what we were up against in terms of funding. It’s a tough situation for everyone involved,” Mmeje said.

Garbuio said current SCholars participants are working on ways to keep the program alive in spirit.

“When we had our meeting about the program ending, they said, ‘You know what, we will take care of ourselves, we are here,’” Garbuio said. “They want to start a student organization to provide the opportunities they had been given to come to USC to other students.”