Texas A&M University has launched a $300 million initiative to raise private funds for endowed scholarships and graduate fellowships and to provide additional support for study-abroad and other international academic experiences for its students -- with officials noting the underlying intent is to help Aggies pay for more of their education without crippling amounts of student-loan debt.
Texas A&M has consistently ranked among the "best values" in higher education in recent years, according to surveys published in several national publications, and this new program will help maintain and enhance such assessments, university officials noted.
The multi-year $300 million initiative, titled "Operation Spirit and Mind," was announced by Texas A&M President Elsa Murano and Texas A&M Foundation President Ed Davis at a Saturday gathering of more than 1,500 donors and recipients of Texas A&M's most prestigious scholarship?the President?s Endowed Scholarship. That scholarship program began 40 years ago and has been instrumental in helping Texas A&M attract hundreds of high-achieving students, just as "Operation Spirit and Mind" is expected to do, Murano noted.
"Operation Spirit and Mind," however, will also place a major new emphasis on providing additional financial support for students to go abroad for international experiences that will help significantly broaden their education, she added.
Additionally, the new initiative will place unprecedented emphasis on providing more fellowships for students pursuing master's and doctoral degrees, given that graduate education is as key component at a major research university such as Texas A&M. The university has a record 9,113 graduate students among its all-time record total student enrollment of 48,036 this fall.
Given shifting state priorities and a steady rise in tuition at universities throughout the state and nation, Murano and Davis said they know many students will decide in large part which institution to attend based on the financial aid offered.
"Operation Spirit and Mind" will give Texas A&M a decisive edge in recruiting the highest-caliber and most diverse undergraduate and graduate students, Murano said.
The new program also is envisioned as helping Texas A&M attain consensus "top 10" recognition among public universities by the year 2020 as outlined in the university's long-range roadmap titled "Vision 2020," with Murano now setting sights even higher: to be the top public university.
Rising tuition is a fact of life around the country, officials noted. The Consumer Price Index indicates that tuition increases have outpaced every major category of U.S. expenses since 1982 -- even more than medical care, they said.
Scholarships and fellowships that will be funded by 'Operation Spirit and Mind' should reduce Texas A&M students' debt significantly after graduation, officials stated.
The new initiative has a goal of creating at least 2,000 new endowed scholarships and graduate fellowships.
University officials said giving opportunities for donors include:
- Named endowments -- Honor the donor or someone special in the donor?s life. These can be part of a scholarship program or can be customized for the donor.
- Graduate fellowships -- Provide annual stipends for graduate students.
- President's Endowed Scholarships -- Awarded solely on academic and student leadership (not financial need).
- Regents' Scholarships -- Merit awards that support first-generation college students with financial need.
- Foundation Excellence Awards -- Awarded to students who face economic, social or educational disadvantages and have proved their academic achievement and leadership abilities.
- Endowed Opportunity Awards -- Assist low- and middle-income students, based on merit.
- Global Study Scholarships -- Allow students to take university courses in countries around the world.
- Corps of Cadets Scholarships -- Available to active members of the Corps.
- Southerland Aggie Leader Awards -- Support outstanding leaders of student organizations.
- 'Now Scholarships' -- Non-endowed scholarships that support undergraduate and graduate students.
"We hope the state of Texas will always be an essential source of funding for our public colleges and universities, but we also recognize that the state has many areas that it must support," said Davis, a 1967 Texas A&M graduate.
"Texas A&M has for generations enjoyed the tradition of loyal support from its former students and friends," Davis added. "Our recent 'One Spirit One Vision' capital campaign is evidence of that remarkable partnership with our former students and corporate allies. 'Operation Spirit and Mind' is a logical expansion on this tradition of Aggie giving that directly aids students."
The Texas A&M Foundation, a private nonprofit organization that solicits and manages investments in academics and leadership programs to enhance Texas A&M's capability to be among the best universities, will lead this new fund-raising initiative for the university.