HSU offers $4,000 in scholarships to local students

Plan is part of effort to increase enrollment of Humboldt County students

Universities should take on food and housing insecurity and train faculty to find resources for students in need, according to a Humboldt State University professor’s co-authored study that found students without basic resources suffer in the classroom. (Times-Standard file)
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Humboldt State University will offer $1,000 per year to all freshmen students who graduate from high schools in Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino or Trinity counties, the university announced Thursday.

By pooling together a number of individual donations to the university, the HSU Foundation created the scholarship with a vision of upping recruitment close to home. Too often, students graduating from local high schools aren’t intent on sticking around, said Manolo Morales, the foundation’s new board chair.

Morales, a graduate of Arcata High School, said many of his peers didn’t look to the four-year university in the same town as a viable option for the future.

“For me and my friends, we didn’t think about Humboldt,” he said. “A lot of us didn’t think about going to college at all, and others wanted to get out of the area.”

With a four-year total of $4,000, the scholarships are intended to reverse the trend. While the yearly total won’t make too large a dent in the sum costs of tuition, boarding and food, it does come in the form of a check that a student can apply where needed, Morales said.

The foundation is going to seek additional donor support to create more in the way of scholarships. For local districts like Eureka City Schools, it could go a long way toward convincing students to attend HSU, the district’s superintendent said.

“It’s uncommon,” Fred Van Vleck said of Eureka High grads going to HSU. More often, if students do stay local, they opt for two years at College of the Redwoods before transferring.

“Our priority is that students need to figure out what it is they want to do and get that core secondary education for that,” Van Vleck said, pointing to trade schools and military options as routes to consider in addition to colleges or universities.

For Morales, who eventually did attend HSU and served as the student body president, a scholarship is part of reducing the “sticker shock” accompanying university tuition.

“The idea is, you see a full price tag for a four-year education,” he said, “and the numbers don’t even seem to be close to what you or your parents make. It scares people.”

Enrollment levels have been shaky at HSU. In 2017, a university official noted a “significant downward trend” in its student population. Earlier this year, the school announced it would make strides to try to turn the tides.

The HSU Foundation, which oversees donations, offers several ways to contribute. Donating specifically to a school club or team is popular, Morales said, but giving money to “student success” or, his own favorite, “unallocated,” helps the university figure out how best to apply newfound funding.

But the heart of the enrollment problem starts with recruitment, he said.

“It has to start well before these students are in high school,” he said. “If you start getting elementary students on campus, you can change their mind in thinking about college as an opportunity.”

Shomik Mukherjee can be reached at 707-441-0504.

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