Four University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students have extra reasons to celebrate their Mexican heritage this semester.
The four – Alejandro Corona, Karina Albor, Jessica Lyon and Esmeralda Villarreal – just received IME-Becas scholarships. These scholarships encourage U.S. students of Mexican descent to pursue higher education, according to Javier Tapia, associate professor of educational policy and community studies. Tapia wrote the grant application that brought the scholarship money to UWM.
The IME-Becas program is funded through the Mexican government’s Institute for Mexicans Abroad (IME or Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior) in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley. “Becas” comes from the Spanish verb meaning “to award a scholarship.”
“IME-Becas is a way of providing higher education opportunities to the huge Mexican and Hispanic community in the U.S.,” Tapia notes. The Hispanic community in Milwaukee now includes more than 115,000 people, says Tapia, and approximately 70 percent are of Mexican descent.
While this particular scholarship is unusual because it is funded by the Mexican government for U.S. citizens and is currently funded for just this semester, UWM offers many scholarships to students from diverse ethnic or cultural backgrounds, particularly those who’ve traditionally been underrepresented in higher education.
Some of these UWM scholarships originate in a particular community and focus on specific majors. For example, Reuben K. Harpole Jr., a longtime leader in Milwaukee’s African-American community, established an education scholarship in 1998. In the fall of 2009, his friends and family raised more than $22,000 to add to the scholarship in honor of Harpole’s 75th birthday.
The Reuben K. Harpole Jr. scholarship is designed to encourage more African-American men to become teachers. “It’s important for all of our children to see positive African-American role models, men who are professionals, qualified and good teachers,” Harpole said in 2009. “We need to show that the ‘mythology’ about African-American males, often fueled by negative stereotypes and some media stories, is wrong. The scholarship plays a role in that.”
In another example, the Peck School of the Arts and Latino Alumni Chapter of the Alumni Association are raising funds for a music scholarship for Hispanic/Latino students.
More generally, UWM and its individual schools and colleges are seeking ways to help fund education for students from groups that have, in the past, had limited access to higher education. In December, for example, the School of Information Studies (SOIS) raised money at a reception and silent auction for the American Library Association’s national Spectrum Scholarship fund. This money allows SOIS to match ALA Spectrum scholarships, which are designed to increase the number of students from underrepresented backgrounds in the library and information studies profession. The College of Nursing has, among others, the UWM Nursing Legacy Fund, which provides scholarships for students in the College’s Nurse Endeavor Program.
In addition to scholarship funds available for individual subject areas, the university’s Financial Aid Department offers numerous scholarships to students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. Two of the more substantial ones are the Chancellor’s Scholarship for Diversity & Leadership and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation Dr. John H. and Cynthia A. Jackson Scholarship Fund Program.
Both are designed to attract high-achieving students who demonstrate the potential for leadership, according to Maria Solis, assistant director of financial aid. The awards can range from $3,000 to full-ride for the Chancellor’s and tuition and books for the Jackson.
For the 2011-12 year, there will be five Diversity & Leadership scholars selected and one Jackson scholarship recipient. Priority deadline for these scholarships is March 15, 2011. For more information on all UWM scholarships, please visit: scholarships.uwm.edu.
In addition to scholarships, there are several options to help people afford college, including grants and financial aid. More than 72 percent of UWM students receive average financial assistance of more than $11,000 per student per year.
Even though college is a large expense, it can be an excellent investment. A graduate with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn about 66 percent more during a 40-year working life than a high school graduate.
UWM also has an array of services available to help students succeed – especially first-generation students who aren’t as familiar with college.
For general information, check out the UWM Financial Aid website. For scholarships for specific programs at the university, check out the website of the major you are interested in. See the listing of the university’s schools and colleges at http://www4.uwm.edu/academics/schools_colleges.cfm.