Tag Archives: scholarships

Out of the Red

July 7, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article appears in Summer 2015 B2B.

Nuns get a bad rap in Hollywood.

“The image is we’re fluffy and don’t have a brain in our head, like The Flying Nun,” says Maryanne Stevens, RSM, Ph.D., president of College of Saint Mary.

Yet nuns are CEOs at Catholic hospitals and small private colleges like the one she leads in Omaha.

No one would ever call Stevens fluffy. When she first arrived in 1996, College of Saint Mary was struggling financially. Now the school’s balance sheet shows no debt.

Stevens has business acumen, says Richard Jeffries, chairman of the college’s board of directors. “During the time Maryanne has been our president, she has put the college on a very sound financial footing,” says Jeffries, partner with Cline Williams Wright Johnson & Oldfather. “At one point the college had mortgaged its land and carried substantial debt. Today we’re debt-free and able to operate on the tuition revenue our enrollment generates.”

His co-chair, Kate Dodge, president of NEI Global Relocation, agrees: “Along with being a strong intellectual with a deep spiritual background, she brings an important business perspective to her position as president of CSM. Dr. Stevens is key in the critical fundraising for the university.”

Stevens’ first sight when walking on campus 18 years ago was a lawn made up of weeds. She saw the straggly lawn as a deterrent to enrollment. “Curb appeal is essential to attracting students.”

She realized campus buildings also needed attention when she walked into an office that had a broken window and no air conditioning.

Fast forward to 2015. Construction on a new residence hall for single mothers, a student commons, and two buildings have proceeded without debt collectors lurking at the college doors. Construction financing is all backed by pledges from donors.

Under Stevens’ leadership, innovative programs were developed, including a special residence hall allowing college-age single mothers to live with their children on campus.

“I got the idea in 2000 when a student living in the hall told me she was pregnant and didn’t know how she could finish her education unless she brought her infant to the residence hall,” says Stevens. “The first year, there were eight mothers with their children. Now there are 35.”

Stevens also launched Marie Curie science and math scholarships funded by the National Science Foundation for women and began an unusual online doctoral program for educators in the health professions.

A unique physician assistant program allows students to start as a college freshman and attend for five years. “That can save students a significant amount of money,” says Stevens. “One of my big concerns is how to make post-secondary education affordable.”

Stevens raises about $1 million a year to support scholarships and athletics in addition to capital fundraising. College of Saint Mary has solid support from women in the community.

“They see a college for women as a valuable resource for the community, “Stevens says. “People know there’s a number of first-generation college students who thrive in a small, rather than large, environment.”

Born in Anchorage, Alaska, Stevens moved with her Air Force family from southern California to Omaha when she was a high school sophomore. As the oldest of eight children, her future as an educator was foreshadowed.

“We used to play homework after school, and I was the teacher for my younger brothers and sisters,” says Stevens.

She joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1966 as Sister Maryanne after graduating from Mercy High School. After graduation from College Misericordia in Dallas, Pa., she taught high school math in Joplin, Mo. Stevens earned a master’s degree in theology from St. Louis University and a Ph.D. in religion and education from Boston College.

The college president taught theology at Creighton University for 10 years before joining College of Saint Mary.

Jeffries says Stevens is a tenacious fundraiser. “Thanks to her efforts, CSM is now in a position to deliver life-changing education to women well into the future.”

Stevens has great leadership skills, says Dodge. “I learn something from her at each committee or board meeting that I attend. Maryanne is a teacher, a philosopher, and a business woman. She is extraordinary.”

DrMaryanneStevens

Strike Zone and MVP4Life

March 14, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Learning life skills through baseball.” This is the tagline for MVP4Life, a new nonprofit organization aimed at keeping Omaha’s youth in school and helping them succeed in life. MVP4Life has joined forces with Strike Zone Omaha to form school programs, camps and clinics, coaches’ clinics, and the Upper Deck League.

The goal of MVP4Life is to instill a sense of work ethic and teach kids about the importance of contributing to the community. It’s not just about baseball. It’s about producing a rewarding program that encourages kids to work together.

Joe Siwa and Teri Cissell, partners at Strike Zone Omaha, realized the need for after-school programs in the community. It was Cissell who thought up the idea behind MVP4Life. As the nonprofit’s director, she has been working hard on the program for about a year and a half and says it’s almost ready to launch. “We have it where we want it to be and now want to hit the ground running,” Cissell says.

Over eight weeks, the school program will teach life skills to fifth through eighth graders. The goal is for students to graduate from MVP4Life with a set of essential life skills. “This is a full-circle program,” Siwa says. “Everything is connected with helping these kids become more productive citizens in life. We are giving them that foundation to live upon.”

“We’ve put a lot of thought into this and have really built a strong program,” says Cissell. Cissell and Siwa have created a complete curriculum based on the HOMERUNS life skills: Handle diversity, Overcome challenges, Make good decisions, Encouragement and leadership, Responsibility and respect, Understand and accept situations, Nurture self-esteem and confidence, and Stay focused on personal goals.

“Research shows that if kids are kept in organized school activities, they do much better in school and in life,” Cissell says. “Douglas County Sheriff’s department did research that determined if we could keep just 10 percent of male students from dropping out of high school, we could save Nebraska taxpayers $65 million per year.”

The nonprofit also includes the Upper Deck League, a competitive league for college players in their offseason. These players mentor youth on how to be successful college athletes, as well as attend a leadership conference in exchange for playing in the Upper Deck League. Siwa stresses the importance of giving back to the community and hopes that these 120 college baseball players are passing on a strong work ethic to the kids.

“Our job is to get these kids involved and teach them how to listen to instruction, take criticism, and gain a work ethic. We want to put a desire into these kids…great things happen when you work hard,” Siwa says.

The program will begin in the Omaha Public Schools and filter out to the rest of
the community.

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Prep for College Now

October 28, 2013 by

With college tuition seeing double-digit hikes and student loan debt at an all-time high, affording college is a big concern for many parents and students. But there are plenty of options that can make higher education reasonable for people at all income levels—grants, scholarships, financial aid, or just a good savings account. It’s all in the planning. Here are a few tips from four local financial pros.

“Certainly, the amount they should save depends on each [person’s] financial situation, but I tell them to put aside something. Start out with a regular savings account and build from there.” —Beverly Hobbs

Start Saving ASAP

Beverly Hobbs, LPL Financial Advisor with SAC FCU Wealth Management located at SAC Federal Credit Union, says parents should ideally begin saving for their child’s college education when they’re born. “With college as expensive as it is and costs rising…the earlier, the better,” Hobbs says. “Certainly, the amount they should save depends on each [person’s] financial situation, but I tell them to put aside something. Start out with a regular savings account and build from there.”

“The key here is consistency,” adds Crissy Hayes, vice president of operations at SAC FCU. “Take what discretionary income you have and budget to pay yourself first, then pay your kids second.” Scheduling automatic checking account withdrawals or payroll deductions to make regular deposits to a college fund—a “set it and forget it” system—is highly recommended.

“…all earnings in the investment are tax-deffered and remain tax-free when funds are withdrawn for higher-education expenses.” —Deborah Goodkin

Consider Investing in a 529 College Savings Plan

Deborah Goodkin, managing director of college savings plans for First National Bank of Omaha, says 529 College Savings Plans are among the best tools for parents to save for their children’s education. Plans, of which there are more than 90 available nationally, are issued by individual states. Nebraska offers four 529 plans, commonly referred to as NEST (Nebraska Education Savings Trust) plans.

NEST plans offer three big advantages, Goodkin says. “First, all earnings in the investment are tax-deferred and remain tax-free when funds are withdrawn for higher-education expenses. Second, for those who pay Nebraska state income tax, up to $5,000 of NEST contributions are deductible in computing one’s state income tax, and that amount will rise to $10,000 as of Jan. 1, 2014. Third, for those who are not savvy investors, 529 plans offer an easy way to invest and offer flexibility to move funds from more aggressive to less aggressive investments as the child ages, much like an IRA with a target retirement date does. Most plans have no minimum monthly investment, and as much as $360,000 total can be saved in any single NEST plan.”

Community colleges, technical and culinary schools, four-year colleges, and even universities abroad all qualify under 529 plan guidelines. Covered college expenses include tuition, books, fees, computers (when required for coursework), and room and board. “Virtually everything except transportation to and from school is included,” Goodkin adds.

In addition, 529 plans allow grandparents and others to make deposits as well, and the funds are transferable to other family members seeking higher education if the plan beneficiary does not use them.

Goodkin warns there are penalties on earnings when funds are withdrawn for unqualified expenses. And like any investment, there are always financial risks to consider. “But NEST plans have some of the highest plan ratings in the country, based on their earnings performance, their ease of use with online management tools and customer service, and the plans’ history of giving back to the community.”

Nonetheless, Hobbs advises parents to sit down with an expert before making any investment decisions. “Prior to investing in a 529 plan or making any investment, you want to talk with a financial advisor and tax advisor to assess your individual needs, your goals, and your risk tolerance. There are so many options, restrictions, and regulations, you want to make sure you get all your bases covered.”

“Too many parents make the mistake of thinking their kids will get full college scholarships—either academic or athletic—and they’re ill-prepared when they don’t.” —Goodkin

Look to Scholarships for Help (But Don’t Depend on Them Entirely)

“Too many parents make the mistake of thinking their kids will get full college scholarships—either academic or athletic—and they’re ill-prepared when they don’t,” Goodkin says. “What they don’t realize is that federal scholarship income guidelines are too low for many to quality. In addition, more people today are in need of financial assistance, so more are applying for scholarships. There’s just less out there.”

That’s not to say there aren’t scholarships to be found, many of which can be researched and applied for online. A comprehensive list of college scholarships, application tips and more can be found at www.scholarships.com. Students don’t need to wait until their junior or senior high school years to begin the scholarship hunt, Goodkin adds. Hundreds of smaller scholarships are awarded each year to elementary and high school students who enter essay contests, music competitions, and so on.

A high school guidance counselor can also be a great resource for learning about small scholarships offered in one’s community (think VFW, local charities, the Chamber of Commerce, etc.) or school system.

“Make sure to find out from the school what their priority deadline for FAFSA forms is [for financial aid for the following fall], as they vary.” —Paula Kohles

Seek Financial Aid

If scholarships and college savings just aren’t enough to cover your expenses, then seeking student financial aid is your next step. “Begin by completing your FAFSA [Free Application for Federal Student Aid] form well in advance and submitting to your college’s financial aid department to see if you qualify for federal grants or other aid,” suggests Hobbs.

Paula Kohles, associate director of financial aid at Creighton University, says FAFSA forms are typically filled out online these days and sent electronically to a school’s financial aid department. The beginning of a student’s second semester of their senior high school year is suggested as a good time to apply. “Make sure to find out from the school what their priority deadline for FAFSA forms is [for financial aid for the following fall], as they vary. Creighton’s is April 1st, but other schools’ deadlines are even earlier.”

Once received, the school will evaluate a student’s financial situation and send them an award notification letter spelling out their aid eligibility, Kohles says. Federally subsidized Stafford Loans and Perkins Loans, which offer college students reduced interest rate loans and special repayment options, as well as Pell Grants (which don’t need to be repaid), are some of the options students may qualify for.

“We also look at their eligibility for campus-based SEOGs (Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants) and work-study programs, as well as unsubsidized loan programs,” Hobbs adds. “There are a lot of aid options out there.”

The final takeaway? College preparation requires sound financial planning and good ol’ resourcefulness. But if you fall short, there is help available. Now get to it!

Beverly Hobbs is a registered representative with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC.