President Julie Sullivan

Scholarships - Priority One

President Julie Sullivan discusses the university's new initiative to infuse $200 million into scholarships.

Across the country, high school seniors are receiving purple envelopes welcoming them to the Tommie network. I can almost hear the shouts of, “I’m in!”

We are seeing many social media posts proclaim, “So proud to say I’ve been accepted to my dream school!” One student recalled sitting in her math class when she learned (via email) she had received a competitive St. Thomas scholarship. She squealed and cried tears of joy. St. Thomas would be financially within her reach.

While we work very hard to keep our university affordable – and 99 percent of our first-year students receive some type of financial support – 40 percent still face unmet financial need. Each year, thousands of deserving students apply to the University of St. Thomas seeking the distinctive Catholic education we offer. Unfortunately, some of these talented students ultimately choose other institutions that offer more financial aid or they forego college altogether.

I understand that a four-year college degree is not for everyone, but it should not be exclusive to those who can afford it. Archbishop John Ireland founded St. Thomas to serve the then working-class and primarily Catholic immigrant populations. We remain inspired by his vision today, when for many motivated, hardworking students, the dream of a bachelor’s degree and the security it can enable is financially out of reach. At the same time, dire workforce shortages are projected for our state, and Minnesota ranks 10th in the United States for the percentage of jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree. We must do more to make education attainable.

We recently announced a goal of infusing $200 million into scholarships for students over the next eight years. This support will enhance educational excellence, increase access and reduce student debt, and began with a lead gift of $50 million from GHR Foundation. I am grateful that Amy Rauenhorst Goldman, vice chair of our Board of Trustees, has joined me in leading this scholarship fundraising initiative. On Tommie Give Day, our community rallied with a record $550,066 in gifts for scholarships, and St. Thomas received contributions from all 50 states. We are on our way, but still have much work to do to reach our goal of doubling our scholarship endowment.

Endowed scholarships take the long view, creating a permanent base of sustainable support that grows through careful stewardship and wise investment. One fully endowed scholarship provides financial support for centuries to come and can be the tipping point that inspires a top applicant to choose St. Thomas or unlocks access to a four-year degree.

In recent months, excessive college endowments have been targeted at the national level. The endowments in question each total in the billions and exceed $500,000 per student attending those colleges. St. Thomas’ endowment per student ratio is less than 10 percent of this threshold and ranks fifth among the private institutions in Minnesota. Our endowment per student is 12 percent of Carleton’s, 13 percent of Macalester’s, 30 percent of St. Olaf’s and 50 percent of St. John’s endowment per student.

Alumni of the University of St. Thomas stand out as morally responsible leaders who think critically, act wisely and work skillfully to advance the common good. They are actively engaged in mentoring our students, and 93 percent of our graduates are employed or enrolled in graduate school within six months of graduation.

Please consider joining me, at any level, in supporting deserving students who seek access to the transformative impact of a St. Thomas education.

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