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Helios Donates $2 Million to UA's Assurance Scholarship Program

Posted on: February 19, 2009

TUCSON, ARIZ. – Helios Education Foundation has committed $2 million to the Arizona Assurance scholarship program at The University of Arizona.

The jointly public-private funded financial aid program addresses a key priority of UA President Robert N. Shelton to increase state residents’ access to higher education. The scholarship package enables students to earn undergraduate degrees in four years, debt-free.

"Arizona Assurance is making the dream of a college education come true for hundreds of students who may have considered college beyond their financial reach,” Dr. Shelton said. “We are honored that Helios Education Foundation shares our goal of increasing the number of Arizona students entering and completing college."

The Helios gift will help support the program's immediate annual expenses for the 2009-10 academic year. "Creating opportunities for students to succeed in postsecondary education also means helping students find ways to overcome financial barriers,” said Helios Education Foundation President and CEO Paul Luna.

"The Foundation's $2 million investment in the Arizona Assurance Scholars Program will help more deserving students achieve a postsecondary education at The University of Arizona and provide them with a support system that bolsters their progress toward educational success."

The inaugural class of about 600 Arizona Assurance scholars is in its second semester at the UA. The program covers college costs – including tuition, books, and room and board – for in-state students from families with an adjusted gross income $42,400 or less per year.

"Our first class of Arizona Assurance scholars is truly representative of the inclusiveness and access we want to encourage through the program. This year’s class represents every county in our state and nearly every college at the University," Shelton said.

To help ensure a successful transition to college, Arizona Assurance provides a retention program that includes pairing faculty members with scholars. Faculty mentors meet with their students throughout the semester and are encouraged to invite students to contact them with concerns. That level of support can have a significant impact on a student's confidence and go a long way in improving retention rates, Shelton said.

The success component of the program also includes workshops on money management, learning strategies and the benefits of internships. Arizona Assurance scholars have access to a staff person to answer questions by phone or e-mail. Second-year scholars will serve as peer mentors for first-year scholars, easing their transition into college life.

Arizona Assurance is funded through a combination of public and private support. About $1 million in private gifts is needed annually to support the scholarship component for each incoming class of the program. The Helios funding will support the current inaugural class of students during their sophomore year and the incoming freshman class for the 2009-2010 academic year.

"This extraordinary leadership gift from Helios Education Foundation helps make sure that the University continues to be accessible to all qualified students," said James H. Moore, Jr, president of the UA Foundation.

Private sources of funding are needed to sustain the program in perpetuity, with the ultimate goal of building a $100 million endowment. Private gifts to Arizona Assurance are combined with other sources, such as federal Pell Grants, work study programs and University grants, to complete the scholarship package. Studies have shown that students who receive education grants are 50 percent more likely to graduate than students with loans.

About Helios Education Foundation

Helios Education Foundation is the largest nonprofit organization serving Arizona and Florida focused solely on education, and is dedicated to enriching the lives of individuals by creating opportunities for success in postsecondary education. Since inception in 2004, the Foundation has invested more than $62 million in education-related programs and initiatives across both states. Learn more at helios.org.

The University of Arizona Foundation

The University of Arizona Foundation is one of the largest foundations in Arizona, raising more than $100 million annually. Managing an asset base of nearly $500 million, the UA Foundation has helped generate more than $2 billion in private funding to support The University of Arizona. Learn more at uafoundation.org.

Category: Postsecondary Completion

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