"Madison for Keeps" Helps JMU Students Stay at School

By: Josh Knight Email
By: Josh Knight Email

A fund raising campaign is reaching out to alumni for donations to help pay university costs for students that might otherwise have to drop out.

"Tough economic times aren't discriminating against anyone, and that includes students at James Madison University," says Andy Perrine, Associate Vice President of Communications and Marketing at James Madison University.

JMU, along with many other universities across the nation, is seeing some of the worse financial aid situations ever.

"What we've kind of seen, is two things come together in what we call the perfect storm," says Brad Barnett, the Senior Associate Director of Financial Aid.

He explains that Congress has changed the formulas that determine how much aid students receive. In general, this meant students got less money than in the past. At the same time, the economy is suffering and many parents are dealing with unemployment.

"We're seeing more people this year that are dealing with job losses than we ever have before. It's not uncommon for me to talk to a parent and they're telling me that he or she, or their spouse, or both have lost their jobs," says Barnett.

For the first time, JMU is finding that it doesn't have enough state grant money to provide a state grant to everyone that qualified. Early on, JMU realized there was a major gap it had to fill.

The Financial Aid Department and the Division of University Advancement have teamed up and created a program called "Madison for Keeps."

Perrine says the program is meant to raise money by reaching out to alumni for donations.

"Madison for Keeps is allowing alumni to come together and get the Dukes through to graduation," says Perrine. "We're seeing a lot of folks who have never donated before, folks that feel like this is a cause they can really get behind, more so than just generally supporting the institution."

Some of the alumni who are giving back are recent graduates themselves. Nicole Boren, who graduated in 2005, understands how tough it can be.

"To try and just make ends meet and not be able to focus on school, I feel like that really does your education a disservice," says Boren.

That is what Boren had to do starting sophomore year after her father almost went bankrupt.

"At one point, I almost failed out because I was working so many jobs," explains Boren.

She hopes that recent graduates and alumni will feel a connection with students going through tough economic times.

"The students in these straits aren't the ones partying all the time. They're the ones working their butt off and missing out on the college experience," says Boren.

Barnett explains, "The idea is to provide some funding to students who would not be able to come back either in the spring or continue in the fall because they have been impacted by something that is economically related."

"I kind of go by the stance of pay it forward. I had money come out of no where when I needed to stay in school, and all of those nameless faceless people have made me want to give and become one of those nameless faceless people for students now," says Boren.

The Financial Aid Office says it is in the final stages of putting together the appeals process that will allow students to apply for the money.

"Madison for Keeps" has raised more than $72,000. The campaign will continue until the end of December.

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