Gateway offers financial path to UGA degree

UGA has launched the Gateway to Georgia Scholarship Program.

Gateway to Georgia is designed to meet the increasing need of students who are academically qualified but have financial circumstances that might otherwise prevent them from pursuing a UGA degree.

“At the university, I am in a very rigorous academic program as well as Leonard’s Leadership Scholars,” said Muizz Mullani, an accounting major in the Terry College of Business. “Without the support of a merit-based scholarship, my academic and extracurricular achievements would have not been possible.”

The scholarship program will help improve access to college and increase retention and graduation rates at Georgia’s first land-grant university, which coincides with the goals of UGA’s Complete College Georgia Plan released this past fall.

The number of federal aid applications received at UGA has increased 37 percent since the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008, according to data from the Office of Student Financial Aid. More than 33,000 applications were filed for the 2011-12 academic year, the most recent time period for which full-year data is available. Only about 12-15 percent of incoming freshmen receive academic scholarships in addition to the HOPE scholarship.

Approximately 45 percent of UGA students graduate with at least $16,000 in student loan debt. The number of loans obtained by students to pay for UGA courses has grown more than 58 percent since 2008. Pell Grant recipients grew by 100 percent since 2008 to more than 7,000 undergraduate students in the 2011-12 academic year.

Students receiving need-based scholarships are quick to offer praise and thanks. “Coming from a family where neither of my parents received a college degree, it means the world to me to graduate from UGA,” said Allison Hughes, a pre-veterinary medicine student in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. “This scholarship provides me with the opportunity to get a degree and build a successful career as a veterinarian.” 

Juan Hernandez, who is triple-majoring in history, agriculture and applied economics, echoes those sentiments: “Coming from a family of relatively modest means and being the first in my family to attend college, I simply cannot express my gratitude enough to scholarship donors. I know I speak for many other UGA students who receive scholarships when I say thank you very much, to all the donors for their tremendous generosity.”

“This is an extraordinary program that benefits all students at the University of Georgia,” said Laura Jolly, vice president for instruction. “It is the first comprehensive scholarship program at UGA from which qualified students enrolled in any school or college at UGA can benefit, no matter their major or area of discipline.”

Three programs make up the Gateway to Georgia Scholarship Program. Donors may designate their scholarship gift of any amount to support merit (Georgia Opportunity), need (Georgia Access) or general scholarships (Georgia Gateway).

Marty and Janet Quirk of Atlanta, chairs of the UGA Parents Leadership Council, endowed a Georgia Access needs-based scholarship in honor of Marty’s sister Janet Case, a firm believer in higher education.

“Our children have benefited from a University of Georgia education, and we wanted to provide students who have worked so hard to attend UGA the opportunity to reach their full potential,” said the Quirks.

For more information, visit the Gateway to Georgia Scholarship fund website.