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News / Clark County News

Community Foundation for Southwest Washington opens online scholarship applications

Nonprofit urges students to apply; more than $1 million awarded last year

By Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: December 22, 2022, 6:04am

The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington has opened online applications for its 2023 scholarship cycle.

Students who are seniors in high school interested in a post-graduation education opportunity, whether that’s a four-year university, two-year degree or trade school, are eligible to apply. Current college students may also re-apply throughout their education.

The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington is a nonprofit organization that manages 70 different scholarship funds across the region, supporting students in a variety of fields of study.

For 2022, leaders at the nonprofit feared that, following a lower rate of college applicants, fewer students would apply for awards. According to a news release last week, however, the foundation reported it had awarded a record dollar amount of awards to students by the end of last year, with $1,046,773 going to aspiring students.

“The end of last year was really surprising, and it really makes us hopeful for what’s to come,” said Deanna Green, the scholarship manager at the foundation. “It comes down to generosity, and donors and committees wanting to support students as much as possible.”

Last year, counselors in Clark County school districts reported seeing students struggling to complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid and seeming otherwise apathetic about postsecondary education — an attitude they chalked up to reasonable frustration with education amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result, just 42.3 percent of high school seniors in Washington filled out their FAFSA applications in the 2022-2023 cycle — ranking Washington 49th among U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The lag prompted a letter from Gov. Jay Inslee in October, letting students know they’re leaving money on the table by not applying.

Though still impressed with what was awarded last year despite those concerns, Green said she has even more reason to be hopeful for this year’s award cycle and is eager to get the word out.

“A lot of the seniors in high school this year, now more used to being back in person, have had a lot more contact with teachers, counselors, advisers — they’re going to have more awareness and access to completing their FAFSA applications and learning about scholarships,” Green said.

Green also pointed to research from the Washington Pathways Project, which showed that 88 percent of Washington students expressed an interest in seeking a postsecondary education, adding that if the will is there, so is the money to help it.

Getting students to apply requires reminders that money from scholarships available at the foundation and elsewhere can go to more than just four-year degrees: They can go toward things such as nursing programs or getting a commercial driver’s license.

“Apply for as many as you can. Students should know that a lot of scholarships are for all of those areas of education; there are so many that are receptive to non-four-year opportunities,” Green said. “Go to your teachers, go to your parents, go to your parents’ friends, do whatever it takes to fill out this FAFSA.”

More information on the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington’s available scholarships can be found at www.cfsww.org/how-we-grant/scholarships.