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Century Challenge: Twice the Financial Aid to 100 Years of Students

Unique part of BU’s comprehensive campaign


When she was 15, Severine Cukierman got a job as a receptionist at a Miami dance center. Bright and ambitious, she soon became an instructor, while mastering four languages in her spare time. The School of Management knew promise when it saw it: Cukierman (SMG’13) came to BU on a scholarship funded by Amy Wallman (SMG’71) and her husband, Richard.

Almost half of BU’s 4,409 full-time freshmen in a recent class were deemed by the University to need aid, and the average need-based loan was $6,226. BU’s new Century Challenge aims to helps such students, not just in the here and now, but for five generations.

Part of the University’s comprehensive fundraising campaign, the challenge, with a goal of $100 million, comprises two-thirds of the $150 million the campaign seeks to raise for student support. The proposition is straightforward: donors must give at least $100,000 to endow an undergraduate scholarship. They can name that endowment, and can designate the criteria for students to be eligible for the scholarship. “For example,” says Scott Nichols, vice president for development and alumni relations, “you could say that you want it to go to center-city urban kids or you want it to go to students who are interested in communications.”

Student Loan Financial Aid graph, average need of student loan financial aid

Financial aid statistics of a recent freshman class.

As with any endowment, a Century Challenge endowment will earn interest each year, and that interest will be paid out as scholarship money to undergraduates, at a rate deemed prudent and sustainable by the University’s leaders—often in the 4 percent range. Here’s the twist: BU will match that endowment payout every year for the first 100 years after the fund’s activation, thereby doubling the good done in the donor’s name. The University’s match will come from its general financial aid budget.

For example: if a donor gives $100,000, and the fund pays out $4,000 the first year, the student will receive $8,000 in scholarship support. (For actuarial reasons, if the challenge raises more than $100 million, the University can match only interest earned on that first $100 million. So “get your gift in early,” says Nichols with a smile.)

Nichols says the challenge is one of three features of the campaign that are unique to BU (the others are a students’ pledge of one million hours of community service and the speed with which BU is reaching out to alumni to make up for a past lack of cultivation on the part of the University). So far, says Nichols, there have been 21 pledges to the challenge, totaling more than $7 million.

Steven Hall, vice president for alumni relations, says based on historic market returns, a $100,000 donation today will grow to more than $5 million a century from now. Hall says the longevity of the financial arrangement is the main appeal to a donor. “If somebody’s willing to give to an endowment, they’re already thinking beyond their lifetime,” he says. “It’s your legacy.”

Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

6 Comments on Century Challenge: Twice the Financial Aid to 100 Years of Students

  • Hmmm on 10.09.2012 at 10:47 am

    The average need-based loan is only $6200 and change, yet tuition is over 50K? Sure sounds like BU is helping kids with a lot of “need”. What’s the average for grant awards?

    • hmmm(?) on 10.09.2012 at 12:34 pm

      I decided to come to BU since it was the school that gave me the best Financial Aid Package. My family has not been as fortunate as others and does not have the funds to pay for my private education. However, BU offered more than 35K per year in grants and scholarships. I know of others at BU with the same experience. You can bash the tuition increases and other things at BU, but from my personal experience BU’s financial aid is one of the better ones in the country.

      • Hmmm(?)(?) on 10.09.2012 at 3:52 pm

        “but from my personal experience BU’s financial aid is one of the better ones in the country”

        Right. Financial aid- which includes loans and grants. Which is why I was asking what the average grant award was. The loan amount is low given the tuition, but if that’s because grants, scholarships or other awards that you don’t have to pay back are high then that’s a good thing. If grants and other things aren’t high, then $6200 is nothing to tout, given the tuition. I was simply trying to make the point that giving one without the other doesn’t paint a complete picture, or portray BU in the light that, I think, was intended by the article.

        I, too, have come from limited means and was able to attend BU far cheaper out of pocket initially than even in-state tuition at the local State U- but even with that I’ll be paying off my BU education until the day I die. Of course, two degrees earned and counting may explain some of that, too.

      • Hmmm on 10.09.2012 at 4:13 pm

        I’ve tried to clarify that loan amount without grants/scholarships/etc paints an incomplete picture of financial aid, and share my common experience of being able to attend BU despite limited family financial resources, but apparently the mods are touchy today for unknown reasons. On the off chance that this actually makes it through, good luck to you. Go BU!

  • Really II? on 10.09.2012 at 4:05 pm

    Now what was wrong with that comment? One can’t ask for grant/scholarship info and express gratitude for personal financial aid received? What kind of censorship is this?

    • Really II? on 10.09.2012 at 4:31 pm

      Okay, my bad mods. I don’t know what happened there, but I can now see they all have eventually made it. My apologies. Now if only BU today had an “edit” or “delete comment” button.

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