The economic downturn has shrunk scholarships from state governments and charities relying on endowments. Individual donors who are rushing to fill these new college financial aid gaps say it doesn't take much money or expertise to help a student.
In fact, helping students can become addictive, warns Lt. Col. Terry Owens, who has formed her own scholarship foundation. "You’ll want to help more than you can afford." So, she suggests, "start small."
Giving also has some surprising paybacks, says Dwight Burlingame, director of academic programs at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University-Purdue University—Indianapolis. "We can all be philanthropists. It is a matter of recognizing the joy of giving." There are plenty of selfish reasons to give, he adds, noting that studies show "people who give and are generous live longer and have healthier lives."
Those who want to help college students financially have several options:
Do something informal, such as give a gift or job to a student.
Contribute to established scholarship programs. Most community foundations have scholarship programs. The National Scholarship Providers Association has a searchable membership list.
Donate to a high school or college scholarship program.
Design a unique and personal scholarship to be run by a professional organization such as Scholarship Management Services, which offers free consultations, and charges as little as $700 a year to market a scholarship, select winners and send out checks.
Form and run a personal scholarship non-profit.