Select Simon Scholars Program Yields Unique Scholarships for Columbus State

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University has been qualified by the Simon Scholars Program to participate in its unique effort to provide college scholarships worth up to $16,000 to disadvantaged, at-risk students.

Unlike other scholarships, the California-based Simon Foundation’s program starts helping students the summer before their high school junior year, offering college and life readiness instruction, as well as financial help. More than $15 million has been awarded to 512 Simon Scholars since the program started in 2003.

Simon Scholars logo

“Columbus State proved attractive to the Simon Scholars program as a collegiate partner because of its strong Servant Leadership and Honors programs,” said Vanessa Sconiers, a grants administrator who helped coordinate CSU participation.

Emory University is the only other collegiate partner in Georgia. CSU’s participation begins in fall 2012.

“The act of the Simon Scholars Program singling out and selecting CSU as a partner speaks volumes about the strong character and uniqueness of this particular university among so many other institutions in Georgia,” said Michael Wetherholt, director of CSU’s grants office.

Before deciding to partner with Columbus State, Simon Scholars Program officials visited campus and met with CSU representatives, including President Tim Mescon, faculty from the Servant Leadership and Honors programs and staffers from Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.

To become a Simon Scholar, students must attend one of 30-plus qualified high schools in California, New Mexico, Washington, D.C., or Georgia. The two qualified Atlanta-area high schools are Southwest DeKalb (Decatur) and Chamblee Charter. Initially, scholars can have at least a 2.5 GPA, but that must improve to at least 3.0 by high school graduation to qualify for the college scholarships. During college, scholars must maintain a 2.0 GPA and participate in community service, mentoring and internship activities.

As a partner school, Columbus State committed to offer special admissions consideration for Simon Scholars who meet all regular academic and other enrollment requirements, plus enhanced financial aid consideration to fill gaps between a student’s Simon scholarship and the cost of attending CSU.

Ronald M. Simon started the foundation bearing his family’s name after earning an engineering degree and helping his Russian-immigrant father grow Perma-Bilt Industries into the nation’s largest manufacturer of medicine cabinets. After selling Perma-Bilt in 1987, Simon started RSI Holding LLC, which today is the largest U.S. manufacturer of cultured marble countertops, bathroom vanities and medicine cabinets.

Over 60 percent of Simon Scholars to date grew up speaking English as a second language, and most are first-generation college students from low-income households. Over 87 percent of the first class of Simon Scholars graduated in 2009, compared with a national average of only 10 percent of students from similar backgrounds. That retention rate rose to 90 percent after a series of enhancements in the program in 2006. 

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