Making the Grade

Johnson County Community Foundation
manages gifts for the mind, from the heart

By Greg Seiter

Studies have indicated that college graduates tend to achieve higher salaries in their careers than those who enter the workforce with only a high school diploma. Yet the sticker shock associated with earning a college degree can be overwhelming for students and family members alike.

CaptionAccording to recent reports from the College Board, a nonprofit organization that specializes in expanding access to higher education, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2017-2018 school year was $34,740 at private colleges, $9,970 for state residents at public colleges and $25,620 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.

So where can Hoosier students turn to fill the gaps so they, too, can cover their tuition? Fortunately, nearly all Indiana residents have access to local organizations that provide scholarships and other types of resources for those needing budgetary-related assistance while preparing for college.

Enter the Johnson County Community Foundation, which was established in 1991, an endowment organization that provides leadership on key community issues and addresses needs through grant-making, including scholarships.

On the latter point, the JCCF manages and provides access to more than 80 scholarship funds that are available to students who attend Whiteland Community High School, Indian Creek High School, Greenwood Community High School, Franklin Community High School, Edinburgh Community High School, Center Grove High School, Greenwood Christian Academy and Roncalli High School.

“We typically add one or two new scholarships each year,” says Stephanie Fox, a 2012 Franklin College graduate who works as program officer of grants and scholarships for the JCCF. She oversees the establishment of new funds, qualification criteria updates for existing funds, the creation of scholarship application forms and the processing of those received. Last year, JCCF received more than 750 applications.

“This past year, we had probably 100 individual scholarship winners,” she says.

Let’s go back to the numbers, briefly: According to the College Board, in-state tuition and associated fees at public four-year institutions increased at an average rate of 3.2 percent per year, beyond inflation, between the 2007-08 and 2017-18 academic years. In recognition of that trend, the JCCF, which awarded 182 scholarships totaling $458,000 in 2017, ultimately strives to help families prepare for college-related expenses in a variety of ways.

“We have students who would rather go to a private school, and the scholarships allow that to happen,” says board member Marcia Grossnickle, a career educator who serves as chairwoman of the organization’s 14-member Scholarships Committee. “Some students just don’t have the money, and as we all know, college costs keep getting more expensive.”

A good portion of JCCF’s scholarship work is about sharing information, getting the word out to the students who need to hear it through a communication with high school guidance departments. Each year, the foundation produces a brochure available to schools and individuals about specific requirements associated with each scholarship. JCCF representatives have held information sessions about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid  and calculating college costs.

“We also offer to speak to any group who will have us about our programs and processes,” Fox says. “If individuals reach out to us, we try to help them find financial assistance in every way we possibly can.”

Fox is also responsible for the other side of the coin, that is, donor relations. Regardless of the scholarship size, the JCCF plays a role in the selection, communication and/or disbursement process associated with each of the scholarships it manages.

“We chose to work with the community foundation because it has an awesome reputation of being a good steward of funds,” says Endress+Hauser Scholarship steward Don Cummings. “We like working with them. They’re good people, and they’re helping us do good things. They make it easier for us to do what we want to do.”

Scholarships available through the JCCF vary, not only in dollar amount but in purpose and qualifying criteria.

For example, students interested in applying for the Endress+Hauser Scholarship must have a 3.0 grade point average and plan to pursue a college degree in fields related to science, technology, engineering and math.

“We realize that technical industries around the country are not finding enough technically educated candidates. To that extent, we can assist by helping people fund their education,” Cummings says. “The dollar amount is $2,500 each, and this past year, we gave three away.”

The $1,000 Molly K. Gibson Memorial Scholarship is only made available to graduating Franklin Community High School seniors who are members of the school’s varsity swimming and diving team and maintain a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.

The fund was established by Molly Gibson’s family in memory of the former Franklin Community High School swimmer who died in 1998 in an automobile accident during her senior year.

“Molly was a passionate person, and her passion rubbed off on other people. Her coach said she swam every practice like it was a meet,” says Pam Gibson, her mother.

For many years before Molly died, Gibson and Molly’s coach lamented the lack of a swimming scholarship for Franklin students.

“All three of my kids were swimmers, so almost immediately after Molly’s death, some of our friends suggested they wanted to help establish a scholarship in her memory,” Gibson says. “Applicants have to write an essay about how swimming has affected their lives. That’s a very important part of the process.”

The Hamann Family Memorial Scholarship, which saw its 23rd recipient in 2018, was created in the memory of H. Paul Hamann and his brother, Robert. Its specific purpose is to assist those who demonstrate financial need. It requires a letter of recommendation from a non-family member as part of the application process and awards $1,000. It is open to all students, no matter their location or academic pursuit.

“The degree they want to pursue doesn’t matter, and they must be an average student. We don’t want the top of the class,” says Diana Ruschhaupt, Hamann Family Memorial Scholarship representative. “We’re looking for somebody who works hard but needs some help.”

The JCCF scholarship review process varies from one fund to the next. For the Molly K. Gibson Memorial Scholarship, a committee composed of friends, family members, Molly’s former swim coach and even her high school best friend review each applicant’s form and submitted essay before selecting a recipient.

The Hamann Family Memorial Scholarship screening process includes family members, current and former award recipients and fund donors, who discuss each applicant via conference call before moving on to the interview process. “We’ll choose as many as six to interview,” Ruschhaupt says. “When that process is finished, we have a group lunch and select a winner.”

Those interested in learning more about scholarships available through the JCCF can visit