Our Best Investment: Students

Financial aid offers opportunity and access and produces leaders.

May/June 2010

Reading time min

Our Best Investment: Students

Photo: Glenn Matsumura

A history major with a focus on the Middle East, Rachel Antonsen, '11, learned Arabic at Stanford and now tutors other students. She explains the importance of her studies this way: "Language has a great deal of power to bridge cultural gaps or barriers. . . . Speaking Arabic allows me to feel empathy for Arabic speakers. . . . That empathy is the thing that prevents violent conflict between people." With stability in the Middle East an ongoing concern, students such as Rachel can help us find ways for a more peaceful future.

We believe there is no better investment than to support the students who will become tomorrow's leaders. A current recipient of the William K. and Cheryl S. Doyle Scholarship and previous recipient of a scholarship from The Stanford Fund, Rachel is just one of many students who have benefited from such support.

When we expanded our financial aid program in February 2008 to ensure that a Stanford education remains affordable for lower- and middle-income families, the global economic climate was very different. The past 18 months have been particularly challenging for many families, and many of our students receiving financial aid requested a re-evaluation of their need based on changed financial circumstances. And just as families have been compelled to scrutinize expenses, Stanford has re-examined its goals and budget in light of the extraordinary events of the past year and a half. We have made some hard decisions, but one goal remains unchanged: our foundational commitment to need-blind admission.

It was Jane Stanford's wish that this University keep "open an avenue whereby the deserving and exceptional may rise through their own efforts," and it was she who established the University's first scholarship. In 1900—two decades before tuition was charged—she used funds that had belonged to Leland Stanford Jr. to provide student financial aid for room and board. Today, about 80 percent of our students receive aid from some source, and almost half receive need-based scholarships directly from Stanford.

Our long-term commitment to the next generation ensures that undergraduate financial aid is a key component of The Stanford Challenge. Given the unprecedented drain on both the University's endowment and our families' resources caused by the economic crisis, we recently raised our goal for undergraduate financial aid to $300 million.

Mari Baker, '85, was able to "rise through her own efforts" thanks in part to the scholarship Stanford provided her. As the youngest of six children, she dreamed of attending Stanford. Her parents encouraged all their children to pursue their dreams, but Mari Baker never would have been able to do so without the help of the Stanford Mothers' Club Scholarship. Today, she is the CEO of PlayFirst, Inc., with more than 20 years' experience successfully developing organizations and products, including and Quicken. From 1996 to 2003, she served as a Stanford trustee, and for her 15-year reunion, she and her husband, Clay, established the Eleanor P. Latterell Undergraduate Scholarship in honor of her mother on her 70th birthday. Future generations of young women who dream of attending Stanford will have that chance. As Baker explained: "The idea that it exists forever . . . it will grow over time and maybe one day fund more than one student . . . is amazing. Universities will create and spark the innovation of the future."

David M. Kennedy joined the Stanford faculty in 1967 and received the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in history for his book Freedom From Fear. But before that, he was a first-generation college hopeful trying to figure out how to cover tuition, room and board at Stanford. Today, more than 15 percent of our undergraduates are, like David Kennedy, '63, the first in their families to attend college. Fortunately for us, Kennedy received a partial scholarship and was later awarded the James Birdsall Weter Memorial Scholarship, named for a Stanford student killed in a summer farming accident before graduating. When asked what he would say to those who made it possible for him to attend Stanford, Kennedy said: "I would thank his family with all my heart. . . . Without that financial aid, I would not and could not have come to Stanford University, and my life would have been very, very different."

Some students receive scholarships through endowed funds, but every year many are supported thanks to annual giving to The Stanford Fund. If you—or your son or daughter—received financial aid from Stanford, what would you want to tell those who made that possible? We want to hear how that support made a difference in your life. We hope you will join the conversation and share your story on Stanford's Facebook page or by email.

You May Also Like

© Stanford University. Stanford, California 94305.