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Great People Scholarship program raises $44 million to help low-income students

March 4, 2016 By Ben Corey
UW-Madison has been ranked this year 11th among U.S. public colleges by U.S. News, 11th by Forbes, and 24th overall by the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Aerial view of Bascom Hall, in the heart of the UW–Madison campus. Photo: Jeff Miller

The Great People Scholarship matching gift initiative has raised $44 million to help low-income students pursue their education at UW–Madison, the University of Wisconsin Foundation announced today.

The initiative began in 2008 when the UW Foundation Board of Directors allocated $20 million to match donor gift funds for need-based scholarships. By the time the matching phase ended in late 2015, more than 21,000 alumni, friends and parents had donated $24 million, creating a total of $44 million in support for students.

In 2015, 575 students received aid through the scholarship. Forty-one percent of last year’s Great People Scholarship recipients were first-generation college students. Since its launch, the program has provided more than 1,900 students with crucial financial assistance, with each recipient receiving at least $2,000. Eligibility for the scholarship is determined solely on the basis of financial need.

“The Great People Scholarship helps ensure that a quality education at the UW is not out of reach for low-income students,” says Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “Need-based scholarships continue to be a top priority as they help the university remain accessible to qualified students, regardless of their personal financial situation.”

“Now I can put all my effort into my education and being a well-rounded individual instead of worrying about how to pay for things.”

Elisha Ikhumhen

Students like freshman Elisha Ikhumhen of Milwaukee know how vital the Great People Scholarship program is. Ikhumhen and his family moved to the U.S. from Nigeria in 2004 and he decided to attend UW–Madison after visiting campus. His goal is to become a physical therapist and eventually set up a sports clinic in Nigeria to help people with limited means recover from injuries.

“This scholarship has eased the financial burden placed on my family and me,” says Ikhumhen. “Now I can put all my effort into my education and being a well-rounded individual instead of worrying about how to pay for things.”

Last year, UW–Madison launched its fourth comprehensive fundraising campaign, called All Ways Forward. In keeping with the spirit of the Great People Scholarship program, one of the campaign’s largest priorities is to continue to remove financial barriers for students to attend UW–Madison.

In June 2015, the university received a generous $50 million pledge from alumni Ab and Nancy Nicholas to match new commitments to student scholarship funds, including merit-based awards, need-based awards, graduate student fellowships, and athletic scholarships. Through the Nicholas Match program, donors have the opportunity to double the impact of their gifts to student financial support.

While the matching phase of the Great People program is now complete, the UW Foundation encourages alumni and friends to continue to support the Great People Annual Fund and other scholarship funds to directly help students.