Scholarship helps former students return to college

A new scholarship may provide older students with a second chance at higher education.

USF was awarded a $50,000 grant by the Bernard Osher Foundation of San Francisco for 20 full-tuition scholarships as part of the Osher Reentry Scholarship Program. The Osher Foundation supports lifelong education for adult students.

Eligible recipients are students who left college without a degree at least five years ago and are attending USF to complete their first bachelor’s degree.

“We are proud of our first class of recipients, but we only have five so far,” said Lagretta Lenker, director of Metro Initiatives at USF Educational Outreach, which helps students find scholarships. “We’d like to have 20 by the end of the year, but we didn’t receive the money until the end of the summer, so we had to scramble to find people who qualified.”

To receive the award, applicants must be between 25 and 50 years old, attend USF and be in good academic standing from the courses they took before initially leaving college. Additionally, recipients must be interviewed and approved by an Osher committee.

During the 2007-2008 school year, USF had more than 10,000 undergraduate students between the ages of 25 and 50. This scholarship is part of USF’s ongoing commitment to adult students, administrators said.

Phillip Amman, one of the scholarship recipients, stopped pursuing his bachelor’s degree at Los Angeles Valley College when his company relocated to Texas. He is a part-time student at USF majoring in mass communications.

“This is a different experience for me,” Amman said. “Last time I was in college was before PCs and laptops, and now I’m the oldest person in class — including the professor.”

Despite the age difference, Amman has a familiar peer at USF: One of his daughters is enrolled as a biology major.

“My daughter Ashley was thrilled when I told her I was going back to college,” Amman said. “We’d been talking about it for years and — now that the financial part is covered — it’s been made possible.”

Another recipient, Suzanne Gerstner, returned this semester after leaving college when her husband became ill in 1999.

“After my husband passed away, I needed to know what I was going to do with the rest of my life to support my family,” she said.

Gerstner is a mother of three completing her bachelor’s degree in business and is able to be a full-time student because of the scholarship.

There are still more applicants being processed to receive the scholarship, said Margaret Block, admissions evaluator for USF4YOU.

“We have some more students that may get the scholarship in the next few weeks,” Block said.

The Osher Foundation was founded in 1977 by California businessman Bernard Osher. USF is one of 63 universities participating in the re-entry program.

The other three scholarship recipients are Rhea Skaggs, Sarah Barnier and Deanna Shapiro.