Union completes pledge for Schuler Initiative years ahead of deadline

Michael Rosenbaum, News Editor

Union College has completed a program to match funds from the Schuler Initiative to increase access to Pell Grant scholarships for students looking to go to Union College. The Schuler Access Initiative, a program run by Jack Schuler and Tanya Schuler Sharman had agreed to match contributions made by the Union community dollar for dollar as well as an additional 10% of Union’s pledge for a total of $42 million dollars.

The Schuler Education Foundation’s initiative stated goal is to “Increase the percentage of undocumented and Pell eligible low-income students attending each college. An incremental increase of 2% – 6% of the student body is the target range,” according to the Initiative’s website. Five schools: Union College, Carleton College, Kenyon College, Bates College and Tufts University, have been accepted to participate in the initiative, which matches donations made by the schools as well as providing a completion bonus of $2 million in the case of Union. The initiative promises to add up to 20 liberal arts schools to the program and will accept applications to more schools starting in September of 2022. The 20 schools the program hopes to enroll is a decrease from an original 25.

The $20 million goal that Union and its donors were supposed to match over a five year period was met in only seven months. That money, which was set aside in an endowment specifically for the purpose of Pell-grant students will now be matched by the Schuler Initiative’s funds. According to the Union website, donation were provided the college by almost 200 donors, meaning that the average donation is near to $100,000. Of the donors, 18 trustees collectively donated $18 million. The names of those who donated are available on Union’s website. 

Union College is the first of the five schools that has been able to complete their portion of the pledge. As such, the first releasee of money to Union College from the Education Fund will be made this spring. According to Union College’s website, this money will be used to provide the full financial need of nine Pell-Eligible students. Union had previously stated its ambition to add nine students for the first two years as part of the Initiative, and ten students a year for the next eight years thereafter. Union College could not be reached for comment as to whether or not this plan had been altered.

As part of a fundraising campaign in September of 2021, President David Harris stated his view that expanded Pell grants were another way that reduces the high sticker price for Union, which is $77,000 a year according to Union’s financial aid office. President Harris was himself a Pell recipient and lauded the Initiative for increasing access to Union College.