New Schuler Education Foundation initiative will provide up to $40 million for underserved students

Publication Date

Union will partner with the Schuler Education Foundation to invest up to $40 million to enroll significantly more low-income students, the College’s latest effort to advance educational equity and opportunity.

Union is among the first five schools selected to participate in the Schuler Access Initiative, which aims to enroll more underserved students at the nation’s top liberal arts colleges.

A view of the Nott Memorial

Jack Schuler, co-founder of the Schuler Education Foundation, will spend $500 million over the next 10 years as part of the initiative. He wants to include up to 20 liberal arts schools that will match the funds, for a potential investment of $1 billion.

Union plans to raise $20 million over the next five years, which, with Schuler’s match, will provide the College with $40 million in scholarship grant funding to recruit and enroll underserved students.

In addition to Union, the other schools chosen to date include Bates College, Carleton College, Kenyon College and Tufts University.

“A liberal arts education is unique to the United States and has proven to be a great foundation for success in post-graduate studies,” Schuler said. “You become a citizen of the world with a liberal arts education. You become a better doctor or lawyer or engineer with the fundamentals of a liberal arts education.”

The federal Pell Grant program provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate students, and unlike loans, in most cases they do not need to be repaid.

The College supports an average of 75 students with Pell Grants in every new class enrolled. Most Pell Grants are awarded to students with a total family annual income below $20,000.

Beginning in 2022-23, the Schuler grants will allow the College to add nine students who are eligible for Pell Grants in each of the first two years of the 10-year project. The number of additional students will increase to 10 in subsequent years.

President David R. Harris said the Pell-eligible students at Union thrive before and after graduation. Compared to the general student population rate, students who receive Pell Grants have a higher persistence rate and a comparable four-year graduation rate at Union. Persistence measures those students who returned to any U.S. college or university for their second year.

“They often are among the highest achieving students in the classroom and are leaders across campus,” Harris said. “There is every reason to believe that if we could support more of these students they also would develop into leaders across multiple tomorrows. We are grateful for the Schuler Education Foundation and our donors, whose generosity will make the dream of a college education possible for more of these deserving young people.”

The goals of the Schuler initiative align with a priority of the College’s Strategic Plan to “ensure that students of all economic backgrounds can access and take full advantage of the opportunities Union provides.”

David J. Breazzano ’78, a longtime benefactor to the College, provided the lead gift for Union’s fundraising goal of $20 million. A member of the Board of Trustees since 2008, Breazzano remains grateful for the substantial scholarship aid he received to attend Union.

“As soon as I heard about the Schuler Access Initiative, I knew I wanted to get on board,” said Breazzano, president of his own investment firm, DDJ Capital Management in Waltham, Mass. “Union is a very special place. I am confident that our strong base of supporters will recognize its obligation and its duty to help others have the opportunity to share the life-changing experiences we all had.”

Trustees Robert D. Bertagna ’85, Dr. Estelle Cooke-Sampson '74 and William Perlstein ’71, are also early supporters of the initiative.

The Schuler initiative is the latest move by the College to make Union more affordable for all families.

Union is committed to meeting the full financial need of all admitted students. The average need-based scholarship at Union is $40,300. More than half of Union students receive need-based financial scholarship assistance; more than 25 percent receive merit scholarships.

In 2019, the College expanded the criteria to qualify for scholarship assistance by launching Making U Possible Family Grants. Families making up to $250,000 per year who have an expected family contribution of $90,000 or less will qualify for at least $20,000 in scholarship assistance. Previously, some families at such income levels would qualify for little or no scholarship assistance. These grants will help families who are struggling to meet those contributions plan for their children’s futures and see that a Union education is attainable.

The grants are part of Making U Possible: The Presidential Initiative for Scholarship and Immersive Excellence. Created in 2018, the initiative ensures that talented students from all backgrounds not only can afford a Union education but also are able to take full advantage of opportunities in and out of the classroom. This includes providing financial assistance to participate in terms abroad, mini-terms, internships and pre-orientation programs.