Scholarships help World Campus students achieve their academic goals

Corinne Moura decided to go back to school after her husband died in 2021. She thought a degree would be the path to more financial stability for her and her two children.

Moura is a business major through Penn State World Campus. She has also received scholarship funding through the Sid and Lee Strand Open Doors Scholarship for World Campus, one of the more than 40 funds that have been set up to help undergraduate students in need.

Each semester, hundreds of students like Moura receive scholarships from Penn State World Campus — made possible by the philanthropy of donors. Students say the support is helping them achieve their goals of getting their degrees.

“I want to show my children that it’s never too late to start over and chase your dreams,” said Moura, who is 42 and the mother of two middle schoolers. “The Sid and Lee Strand Open Doors Scholarship has helped to ease the financial costs that are associated with going to college, and I am very thankful that I was chosen to receive this scholarship.”

Scholarships for undergraduate students

Penn State World Campus has been offering education online since 1998, when it opened its first course, in turfgrass management. Now, 25 years later, World Campus has a comprehensive portfolio of more than 175 degree and certificate programs and a robust suite of student support services. Endowed funds created by donors make it possible to provide scholarship funding.

The first scholarship fund was established in 2004 by an anonymous donor. Since then, Penn State World Campus has provided more than $15 million in scholarship support to more than 13,000 students to help them offset the cost of their education.

Scholarships are awarded to undergraduate students who have filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and demonstrate a financial need. They must apply for consideration, and about a quarter of the scholarships go to first-year students.

In addition to scholarships based on financial need, students can be awarded scholarships for military learners, adult learners, and first-time college students.

Mauricio Dell is another scholarship recipient. A native of Argentina who moved to the United States four years ago, Dell had been working minimum-wage jobs to help support his family. He decided he needed a college degree to advance his career, and he chose the Bachelor of Science in Finance major through World Campus because of Penn State’s academic reputation.

Dell wants to become a Certified Financial Planner or take the LSAT and go to law school after he graduates in 2024. The scholarship support he has received, through the Fischer Family Scholarship for Continuing and Distance Education, has been “invaluable,” as he works part-time while his wife works full-time.

“The scholarship has been a real help for me and my family,” Dell said. “It’s allowed me to cut back on my work hours a bit so I can focus on advancing my degree and devoting more time to studying.”

Smart Track to Success

Each semester, as many as 60 students begin Smart Track to Success, an invitation-only program that focuses on academic and life skills, mentoring from peers and Penn State staff, and assistance in getting involved in the World Campus community. Students are enrolled in Smart Track to Success for two semesters and receive $1,500 each semester.

Kathy Burett completed the program in 2022 and said it was vital to her initial success as an online learner.

“The Smart Track to Success program was a lifeline to me,” said Burett, who is majoring in organizational and professional communication. “After a career of more than 40 years, deciding to attend college was quite scary. Gaining this information from the onset of my endeavor made my first two semesters manageable and productive.”

Burett said the resources on how to use the Canvas learning management system for accessing grades and using calendars and rubrics were vital to her success. She also praised the program’s resources on writing strategies.

Taylor Bell is another student who is participating in the Smart Track to Success program. She said the scholarship funding gave her the chance to reduce her work hours — she had been working 80 hours per week between two jobs — and focus on her studies.

“With the scholarships I received, I was able to take a breather and focus more on finishing my school work,” said Bell, who is majoring in strategic communications. “Without the additional financial assistance, my college journey would’ve been a short one.” 

Progressive scholarships

A new scholarship initiative that began in 2023 is the Progressive Scholarship Program. In this program, 90 students will receive scholarship funding each semester as they complete a set of six requirements aimed at developing successful habits, which include consulting with their academic adviser, registering for courses on time, and maintaining at least a 2.3 grade-point average.

Linda Teti enrolled in Penn State World Campus through the Progressive Scholarship Program this fall. She is the first in her family to go to college and wants to be a real estate lawyer. The scholarship funding helped alleviate the stress of paying for college and is motivating her to continue, she said.

“Having the scholarship really helped me financially,” said Teti, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society. “It took a huge weight off my shoulders.”

Learn more about the scholarships available to undergraduate students through Penn State World Campus.