Our Most Productive Feat. The President’s Perspective

paul on riverside September 2013Spring is “scholarship time”—a time when we celebrate scholarships and academics at our annual Scholarship and Donor Brunch and a time when we award the President’s, Fine Arts and other scholarships to first-year students who will join Augsburg next fall.

The competition for these prestigious awards is part of our annual Scholarship Weekend, which was held at the beginning of March this year. During the weekend, we welcomed nearly 150 highly qualified prospective first-year students, providing them an opportunity to immerse themselves in getting to know what Augsburg is about and to picture themselves a part of the Augsburg community.

Over the course of the weekend, we can see their excitement about Augsburg grow as they spend time on campus and with each other. At the same time, I can’t help but be struck by the impact that these students will make—that every one of our students makes—on the character, the mission, and the success of Augsburg College. Their educational experiences here shape them, yes, but at the same time, they shape who and what Augsburg is.

Our students are not a “product” of Augsburg College. The College is the product of the ambition, abilities, and agency of our students.

And you certainly don’t need to look far to find great examples of Augsburg students who are shaping what it means to be an Auggie. Let me tell you about just three of them:

Dan Kornbaum ’14, a physics student from Little Falls, Minn., is a leader on and off the basketball court. He earned a coveted spot this spring in the 2014 Reese’s Division III College All-Star game, which was played just before the NCAA Division III championship game. Dan also was named as one of 10 finalists for the Jostens Trophy, which is awarded each year to an outstanding Division III men’s and women’s basketball player who excels on the floor, in the classroom, and in the community. As evidence of his accomplishments in those latter two areas, Dan last year participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he worked with high-altitude ballooning and also takes time to stay involved with his home church in Little Falls and its mission trips to Costa Rica.

Yemi Melka ’15, an international student from Ethiopia, is studying chemistry and international relations. As early as her freshman year, Yemi conducted undergraduate research—a rare achievement for a first-year student. In her sophomore year, she joined the Model United Nations program and, last summer, earned a spot as a Peace Scholar in Norway, where she studied the ways science can contribute to peace and international security. A Sundquist Scholar, an Interfaith Scholar, and a member of the Augsburg Honors Program, Yemi was also named a Spring Lobby Weekend Fellow this year and traveled to Washington, D.C., to research policy and inform others on how to make change and repeal policies that prevent peace.

Ibrahim Al-Hajiby ’14 was a high school exchange student from Yemen who returned to Minnesota to pursue studies in international relations and international business at Augsburg College. Ibrahim is a member of student government, active in interfaith scholarship, and a Kemper Scholar. Last year, he served as a Nobel Peace Prize Forum student attaché to Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkol Karman. Recently, Ibrahim won the Vincent L. Hawkinson Foundation Scholarship, established by the Foundation to encourage students who have demonstrated a commitment to strive for peace and justice both in their educational pursuits and in their personal and professional lives.

It’s because of students like these that we need to remain committed to making an Augsburg education accessible and affordable to a diverse body of students. This requires that we are vigilant in managing the costs of college as well as in providing support needed to students and their families in paying for their education. To that end, this spring, the Augsburg Board of Regents approved the lowest tuition increase in 10 years for the traditional day undergraduate program.

In addition, through the generosity of donors and continued institutional investment by the College, Augsburg is able to narrow the gap for most students between the cost of tuition and the expected family contribution set by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid. More than 95 percent of incoming full-time day students receive some amount of institutional financial aid from the College.

We also pay close attention to metrics such as our federal student loan default rate—which, according to the Department of Education’s College Scorecard, is 3.6 percent, compared with the national average of 13.4 percent. Achieving a lower-than-average student loan default rate is especially compelling given that more than one-third of the students we serve come from lower-income households. And we are committed to maintaining this track record by helping families make informed decisions about student loan debt (including understanding the differences between federal and private loans) and ensuring that they are aware of newer financial aid options such as income-based loan repayment programs and public service or other loan forgiveness programs.

We recognize that students and families make significant investments in paying for college—investments that have long-term implications both in terms of debt loads and, on the plus side, in greater potential earning power. It’s a complex task to strike the right balance of institutional scholarship support, government aid, and family contributions—especially given the socioeconomic diversity our student body represents. But the goal of placing a high-quality education within reach of all who are willing to work for it is unequivocally worth it.

Augsburg is blessed to have donors and partners who join with us in this effort. The College and the entire Augsburg community are fortunate to support and serve these students—students who bring their gifts to Augsburg and whose dedication and accomplishments make us, and our world, better and stronger.

Best wishes for a blessed and joyful Easter,

Paul C. Pribbenow, President