Volume XV | Issue 1 | Spring 2015
In 2004, Ford ReStart Scholar Jeff Strickland celebrated receiving his bachelor’s degree from Southern Oregon University with daughters Kailen and Leah. Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Strickland

Study examines effects of Scholarship Programs

Survey focuses on Ford ReStart and Ford Opportunity programs

When Jeff Strickland started college at Southern Oregon University in 2000, he wasn’t a typical student. Forty-three years old, he was parenting two daughters and working full time.

90% of cost of attendance covered

After receiving a ReStart Scholarship from The Ford Family Foundation, life changed a little. With 90% of his cost of attendance covered, he was able to quit work his senior year and concentrate on his studies.

It paid off — in 2004, Strickland graduated at the top of his class with a degree in psychology, a member of the first class of ReStart scholarship recipients. When the Foundation extended its support to graduate school a few years ago, Strickland returned to school for his degree in mental health counseling from Oregon State’s University’s Cascades campus. He graduated in 2013, and now works for the The Ford Family Foundation Scholarship Office as the student success counselor.

Non-traditional students like Strickland are the focus of two programs at the Foundation. The Ford ReStart Scholarship Program was created to encourage adults, age 25 or older, to begin or return to full-time post-secondary education. The Ford Opportunity Scholarship Program is designed for single parents who are seeking a bachelor’s degree. 

In 2014, the Foundation commissioned a study to examine the effects of the two programs. Among the findings was evidence that the two scholarships have contributed to student success in the areas of college completion, less financial stress during college, gainful employment and participation in the community. 

‘significant challenges’

“This is not to say that everything is perfect,” writes Irene Goodman of the Goodman Research Group. “A number still have significant challenges in their lives, yet most report that they feel better equipped to handle these because they overcame what they initially considered an insurmountable hurdle — successfully completing college.”

Many of the findings resonate with Strickland, particularly the evidence that the scholarships have positively influenced how recipients view their own children’s educational attainment. “I was not brought up in a college-going culture at all,” he says. “But there was no doubt, after I went back to school, that my children were also going to go.” Today, his grown daughters are college graduates and work as a nurse and a teacher.

Strickland counted the Foundation involvement as critical to his success. “Having that type of support and having someone step up and invest in me made a huge difference in my ability to succeed, and my ability to believe in my capabilities,” he says.  

Some of the findings of the study:

  • 100% who received their scholarship before 2009 have completed a college degree 
  • 76% plan on continuing their education
  • 41% have obtained an advanced college degree (1996-2008 cohort)
  • Most common work fields:
    29%  health care/medical 
    26%  education 
    12%  human/social service 
  • Recipients exhibit a high level of community service 
  • Despite scholarship aid, debt is still a concern
  • 75% of alumni are employed
  • The mean gross salary of those employed full-time is $53,865, compared to the U.S. average of $46,440 

Vern Duwell, a Ford ReStart Scholarship recipient, is finishing his last term at Linn-Benton Community College to become an operating room radiology technologist. Health care is the most common work field for Ford ReStart and Ford Opportunity Scholars, according to the recent survey.
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