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Kauffman Foundation invests $79 million in new college scholarship program

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation announced it is investing $79 million into a new scholarship program during an event at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts to celebrate what would have been Ewing Marion Kauffman’s 100th birthday.
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation announced it is investing $79 million into a new scholarship program during an event at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts to celebrate what would have been Ewing Marion Kauffman’s 100th birthday. File photo

Jared Antonio Hoskins knows exactly where he’ll be one minute after midnight Jan. 2 — sitting in front of his computer applying for a new $50,000 college scholarship that was launched Wednesday evening by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Details about KC Scholars, a three-tiered scholarship and college-savings program designed to carry forward a Kauffman mission to help low- and modest-income families complete a higher education, went online at 8 p.m. Wednesday. But student applications won’t be accepted until after the first of next year.

The foundation announced it is investing $79 million into the scholarship program during an event at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts to celebrate what would have been Ewing Marion Kauffman’s 100th birthday.

Hoskins, a junior at Kansas City’s Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts, learned about the scholarship Wednesday afternoon, minutes before leaving school for the day. Clutching a blue brochure with scholarship requirements folded inside, a broad smile crossed his face. It’s just what he needs, he said, to make the impossible, possible.

“Going to college ... I’ve always known it wouldn’t be easy,” the 16-year-old said. He comes from a low-income family and early in his life moved from foster home to foster home. These days, though, he is back living with his biological mother, a twin brother and two other siblings.

“We’ve had our share of hardship,” Hoskins said. “My family gets food stamps, and still a lot of times we can’t make it to the end of the month.”

Hoskins said he hopes to become a doctor some day — either civilian or military — but without a scholarship his goal might be out of reach, he said.

The teen, who in middle school was a national debate champion, has a 3.5 GPA and has already picked out his 10 top schools, including the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Missouri.

It’s a good thing both schools are among the list of 17 two- and four-year Missouri and Kansas colleges that have partnered with KC Scholars to provide academic support to any selected scholar who attends their institution. Scholarship winners would have to attend one of the partner institutions.

KC Scholars is the third college scholarship program the Kauffman Foundation has invested in.

In 1988, Ewing Kauffman launched Project Choice at Westport High School, and then in 2003 the foundation rolled out Kauffman Scholars, a 19-year-long program that funds a college education for students who qualified for the program in middle school. Currently, there are 1,013 “active” Kauffman Scholars. That program ends in 2022.

While the Kauffman Foundation is putting $79 million over 10 years into the new scholarship program, this effort has broader community input, said Wendy Guillies, president and CEO of the foundation.

“This is not a Kauffman scholarship program,” Guillies said. “It is a Kansas City community program.”

She said the foundation’s contribution is “only the beginning.” Guillies said the foundation expects millions of dollars from the community will be contributed down the road to fund KC Scholars for many years.

The program was designed with input from 70 people from the community. Next year, it will move into the community as a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization independent of the foundation, said Beth Tankersley-Bankhead, director of KC Scholars.

Community members worked for a year to design the scholarship program, Tankersley-Bankhead said. “And we want it to be broadly community-owned all the way,” she said.

She said the scholarship program was designed with a focus toward addressing a national challenge brought by the Obama administration to raise the percentage of Americans with some post-secondary, credentialed education from 42 percent to 65 percent by 2020. By then, two out of three jobs will require some college education.

“We feel like KC Scholars and Kauffman Scholars will significantly move the needle in terms of bringing talent back to the community so that they can make a difference in the community,” Guillies said.

When KC Scholars is running full scale, it will be serving 2,000 students, Tankersley-Bankhead said.

KC Scholars offers three scholarship opportunities:

▪ A traditional scholarship of up to $10,000 a year for five years that would be awarded to 11th grade students with at least a 2.5 GPA.

▪ A scholarship of up to $5,000 a year for five years for adults 24 and older.

▪ A college-savings match that will begin in ninth grade for students who kept at least a 2.5 GPA through seventh and eighth grades.

Whatever the selected students put into their KC Scholars college savings plan will be matched four-to-one up to $5,000, and those students who also meet certain college-ready milestones could get another $2,000 to put toward school.

Hoskins was so excited about the scholarship opportunity he said he would be ready to start writing required essays as soon as the details go online.

“I don’t see any reason why one of the people who get these scholarships can’t be me,” he said. “My mother always said impossible is the possible thing that no man has dared to try yet.”

Mará Rose Williams: 816-234-4419, @marawilliamskc

Kansas City marks the centennial of Ewing M. Kauffman's birth 

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