“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
We envision a future where all doors are open to San Luis Obispo County residents to achieve their academic aspirations regardless of financial need. Our Scholarship Program is dedicated to increasing access and resources for students of all backgrounds and interests to earn their degrees. Thanks to generous donors, hundreds of students have received thousands of dollars in funding to pursue their dreams.
Since its inception, the CFSLOCO Scholarship Program has used a continuous improvement model to make the program better each year. As part of this continued effort, we examined our program from the inside out to ensure that our scholarship program reflects the changing needs of students and changes in the local economy. Using a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens, we assessed how available scholarships can properly support all students in San Luis Obispo County.
“The decision to audit our scholarship program was very intentional,” says Heidi McPherson, CEO of CFSLOCO. “We wanted to peel back the layers of the program and put increased energy into places that would bridge gaps between students and their scholarship opportunities.”
To evaluate our program, we worked with Everyday Impact Consulting (EIC), who shared some eye-opening insights with us:
- Students from more privileged backgrounds have a higher chance of applying for and receiving a scholarship than students from underrepresented communities
- A typical high school student may have the qualifications for as many as 50 to 100 scholarships but often does not know where to find them
- Two-thirds of all college students are burdened with student loans upon graduation
- 66% of Asian, Latino, and Black students face a gap in total resources vs. total cost of attendance; meanwhile, White students experience a 54% gap
The EIC team then connected with key leadership, scholarship evaluators, reviewers, donors, teachers, careers counselors, and diverse scholarship recipients in a series of interviews and focus groups intended to glean key information. Insights from these interviews guided our decision to make improvements to our current program, and allowed us to set goals for the future.
IMPROVEMENTS TO OUR PROGRAM
As a result of the assessment, we have upgraded many components of our program:
- Spanish translation is now available on our website
- Revised our application form to better support students with disabilities and remove barriers for students and their families
- Our Board of Directors created the Julian Crocker Community Scholarship to support students transferring from a 2-year college to a 4-year college AND will support students who want to go into career technical training
- Updated the ‘Activities’ section of our application to include the myriad activities students engage in through community, school, and family commitments
- Developed an alternative application that is more accessible for students with learning disabilities
- Increased the diversification of committee members and community evaluators
- Collection of detailed demographic information going forward to improve the application process in the future
- We are investigating partnerships that will reduce gender disparity
The demographic landscape in SLO County is constantly changing and requires us to change with it. When we improve the diversity and variety of scholarships offered, we improve the diversity and variety of future business and employment opportunities, thereby creating more dynamic workplaces.
“We must continually examine our systems and structures that help or hinder students seeking funding for higher education. This is only the beginning; our intention is to continue to improve programs and services. We are committed to listening, learning and growing in order to meet the current and future needs of our community. ”
– Cassandra Kartashov, Director of Grants and Programs
To see upcoming available scholarships or learn more, head to https://www.cfsloco.org/scholarships/. Subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on LinkedIn, or check back here for more updates as we continue to enhance our services for you.