FB Pixel Skip to Main Content

Student First Scholarship Making a Difference

Student First

Western Colorado University Junior, Katherine Smith, was hit hard this past spring by COVID-19.

With both parents dependent upon the travel industry for income, with a sister also in college, Smith took a full-time job to weather the economic impacts of the global pandemic. Still, her wages weren’t enough for her to continue toward her goal of obtaining a degree in Business.

Student First Scholarship Fund

But thanks to the Student First Scholarship Fund—an effort begun by two generous and innovative alumni—Smith, and other students like her, are still on the path toward their shared goal of becoming Western graduates.

“With the help of the Student First Scholarship, my tuition is more affordable for myself and my family,” Smith said. “The scholarship has also allowed me to not stress about my tuition as much, which gives me more time to stress about homework!”

Since its inception, the fund has raised more than $600,000 and is growing stronger with the help of the Western community. It’s assisted more than one hundred students impacted financially by COVID-19.

The scholarship was the brainchild of Steve Borick ’75 and Michael O. Johnson ’77. The duo encouraged other alumni to join them by providing financial assistance to current students after federal coronavirus relief funds were exhausted.

While the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided Western with $676,000 to help students offset the costs associated with moving off campus during the start of the pandemic, the money was quickly spent. Western received more than 500 requests for CARES Act funds, totaling $750,000—$74,000 more than what the federal government provided.

Borick and Johnson, realizing many students were unfunded and were at risk for having their education plans derailed, challenged Western alumni and friends to give to Student First Scholarship Fund for the 2020-21 academic year. They offered to match every dollar contributed by others up to $300,000.

“We may not be able to help the world, but we can help our family—our Western family,” Borick and Johnson said. “That’s what family does.”

By assisting students, Western has benefited as well. Western’s Admissions and Financial Services departments report freshman to sophomore retention is 68% despite the pandemic. Even more notable is that 95% of students who received Student First assistance are still enrolled at Western.

Perhaps the greatest impact from the Students First Scholarship fund can be measured by the look of relief and thankfulness on the faces of the recipients, students like Smith.

“To the alumni who helped contribute to this fund, I know that this time of COVID-19 isn’t easy for anyone, so it means the world to me that people are still giving back during difficult times,” she said. “Thank you for allowing me this opportunity!”

For Western alumni, the opportunity has never been better to assist students impacted by the pandemic. Please consider giving to the Student First Scholarship Fund.


Author: Chris Rourke
Photo Credit: F4DStudio

Take the Next Step

Apply to Western

Apply to Western

We understand that applying to a university can be daunting, which is why we make our admission process as simple and straightforward as possible. Learn more about applying to your program of choice at Western.

Visit Western

Visit Western

The best way to find out what makes Western such a special place is to experience it for yourself. Our student-led tours give you an insider’s perspective on everything from academics to student life.

Alumni Community

Alumni Community

We keep the Mountaineer spirit going strong within our alumni community. Whether getting together with friends at an annual event, making a donation or mentoring a student, graduates continue to play an important role in the Western community.