Founded nearly 70 years ago, Staples Tuition Grants has long said financial need should not prevent any Staples High School graduate from attending college.
Now, as requests for assistance soar, the nonprofit foundation that awards scholarships has issued a public plea for donations.
The dual forces of a poor economy and constantly rising tuition fees have put an increasing number of Westport families in a bind, STG officials said.
Applications for assistance have soared nearly 65 percent in the past three years alone — from 80 in 2007-2008 academic year to 130 last year — the foundation said.
During that period, total grants have risen nearly 55 percent to a total of $300,000 awarded to 108 recipients last year.
The foundation said it expects the rising tide of requests to continue when applications are due next month.
STG said profound problems such as foreclosure, health crises and the deaths of parents, long-term unemployment and even abandonment have created an ever-widening financial gap for many Westport families trying to send children to college.
“Some families extend themselves with great sacrifice, but this gap is often impossible to close through additional loans or non-existent savings,” said Anne Hardy, STG’s donor chair.
Since 1943, Staples Tuition Grants has provided tuition assistance for Staples seniors and graduates who demonstrate financial need. While it may be hard for some Westporters to imagine, the foundation said, the need among local families for financial assistance to pursue a college education is real.
STG said it is the last resort for many Staples seniors and recent graduates struggling to get to or stay in four-year undergraduate programs, community colleges or technical or vocational school.
Grants range from $1,000 to $5,000, and although that may not seem like much to some Westporters, it often means the difference between attending college or not, STG said
Recipients run a gamut from varsity athletes to Merit Scholars to special-needs students and they attend the full spectrum of schools — from the Ivy League to state universities to nearby community colleges or vocational schools.
Nearly all have part-time jobs during the school year and work summers to save for school expenses, STG said.
To donate, visit www.staplestuitiongrants.org. Click on “Donations.”