By Jonathan Baca, Copy Editor | Photo by Jonathan Gamboa
The Rust Opportunity Scholarship provides emergency assistance to students who are in danger of dropping out of school due to an unforeseen expense, Lisa McCulloch, Executive Director of the CNM Foundation, said.
Through the Rust scholarship, students are eligible to receive a gift of up to $800, once a year, to help pay for anything from a rent payment to an electric bill, McCulloch said.
Students can receive the benefits in as little as 48 hours, she said.
“A student might experience a financial hardship that they weren’t anticipating. Maybe a spouse lost their job, or their child care payment went up. For many students this can cause them to abandon their plans to pursue higher education, and we don’t want that to happen,” McCulloch said.
The scholarship was set up in 2005 by Jack and Donna Rust, with a gift of $500,000 to the CNM Foundation. According to the Foundation’s literature, the fund has been used for childcare expenses, vehicle repairs and emergency bus passes, healthcare expenses, testing and certification fees, and daily living expenses such as grocery bills, as well as school related expenses like books and equipment.
McCulloch said the Rusts understood that students are usually on very fixed incomes, and that any unforeseen cost could disrupt a student’s life and cause them to drop out of school.
“A lot of times, it’s the little things that break the camel’s back,” Donna Rust said.
The gift was given to the CNM Foundation, which is a 501 c3 nonprofit organization set up by the school to raise private funds for students. The Foundation offers more than 75 different scholarships, McCulloch said.
“The sole purpose of our organization is to raise the extra financial assistance that students need to be successful,” McCulloch said.
The Foundation also funds CNM Connect, which works closely with students in need of Rust benefits, she said.
Students who want to apply for the Rust scholarship need to fill out an application at Financial Aid, and need to bring a letter of support from an instructor, she said.
“We ask that they do that, so that we can get a reference from an instructor about what kind of student they are as far as their commitment to their education,” McCulloch said.
Students then need to meet with an achievement coach from CNM Connect, so they can receive assistance with their issue, participate in a screening analysis, and receive financial coaching to ensure that their academic plans are sustainable, she said.
Although some of the CNM Foundation’s scholarships are paid directly to the student, the Rust scholarship benefits are made out to vendors, McCulloch said. Students must bring a copy of the bill they cannot pay, and show why they are unable to pay it, in order to get the money. The check is then made out to the company or person who made out the bill, she said.
“The student needs to give us proof that it is an unforeseen financial obstacle,” McCulloch said.
After receiving the scholarship, students are asked to continue meeting with an achievement coach from CNM Connect, she said.
“Building a relationship with an achievement coach can help students be more successful in the long run,” McCulloch said.
The Rust scholarship was created in 2005, when Jack and Donna Rust attended a fundraising event put on by the CNM Foundation.
“We have an annual donor appreciation dinner every year, to honor the folks who have contributed to the Foundation,” McCulloch said.
At the dinner, several students told stories about how their lives were changed when they received scholarships given by the Foundation. After hearing these stories, the Rusts were inspired to help, McCulloch said.
They were told that the Foundation was in need of funds that could be given to students who run into hard times, or are forced to leave school because of outside financial burdens, she said. They decided to help by giving a gift of $500,000, for the sole purpose of helping those students for years to come, she said.
“They are really pretty amazing people,” McCulloch said.
More than 2,000 scholarships have been awarded since the Rust fund’s inception, and according to the CNM Foundation, more than eighty percent of students who receive the scholarship finish out the semester.