Not quite two years ago, Butler Community College leaders quietly began fundraising to double the amount of money they give in scholarships.
Tuesday evening, Butler president Kimberly Krull announced the $10 million fundraising effort. She and other leaders at Butler say $7 million has already been raised. And they say nearly all of what they raise will go to scholarships to support their students, many of whom work and support families while taking classes.
They plan is to invest the money, spend only the interest earned, and increase the amount of scholarships from about $400,000 now to more than $1 million. For Butler students – the college enrolled 9,200 full-time equivalent students last fall and 8,400 this spring – this means more support will become available, Krull said.
Besides more than doubling scholarship money, Krull said, Butler hopes to invest more in paid internships for students to work in fields they feel are interested in. Butler’s student demographics have long shown that this should make a lot of sense, Krull said.
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“Eighty percent of our students work,” said Stacy Cofer, Butler’s vice president for institutional advancement. “And 62 percent earn less than $20,000 a year.
“We thought that if we can raise more scholarship money and do paid internships for students to to work in the area they are passionate about, we’ll be doing them a lot of good.”
Shawn Lancelot, president of Bank of America in Wichita and a member of Butler’s campaign leadership committee, said much of the motivation for the fund drive is spurred by worries about college costs and the burden it places on working students.
“The cost of higher education is the number one impediment for students wanting to earn a college degree,” he said in a statement prepared by Butler.
Krull added, “The biggest narrative in all of higher education now is debt burden carried by students. We want to help them save money and federal aid dollars.
“If they save … then they have more resources for other things,” including taking care of their families if they are helping support them.
Much of the money won’t come in for a few years, Cofer said. It’s money pledged for “endowment and deferred giving,” in other words from people willing to donate portions of estates and other gifts after their deaths.
Butler’s student demographics has motivated Krull to try harder to help, Krull and Cofer said.
“About 2,000 apply for help, and until now we were able to help only one-fourth of that,” Cofer said. “Imagine our enthusiasm if we can help more?”
The campaign also should mean more economic boost to Wichita and Kansas, Krull said. Sixty-three percent of Butler’s students are from Sedgwick County; another 21.7 percent are from Butler. Most Butler graduates find jobs and stay in Kansas.
Krull said she operates the college on a $45 million annual budget with only 30 percent support from the state. The college produces about $400 million in annual economic impact, she said.
Butler does more than offer affordable classes to take basics like college English and mathematics; its instructors teach everything from welding to nursing to IT to how to operate 3D printers, she said.
Butler so far has targeted a small number of supporters, about 65, to raise the $7 million, Cofer said. It now hopes to broaden the donor list to hundreds more from across the globe.
School officials hope to raise the remaining $3 million in the next 18 months, Cofer said.