CORVALLIS - Oregon State University students struggling to make ends meet financially because of rising tuition costs received some welcome news this week. The university announced today that it will use most of $1.1 million in funds provided by the OSU Foundation to help ease the burden on the neediest students.

The university will use $1 million for need-based scholarships to students, with the non-recurring funds to be allocated during the 2004 calendar year, said OSU President Ed Ray.

"This is a wonderful gift from the foundation that could not have come at a better time," Ray said. "This may make the difference for a number of students who are on the margin financially. Our graduates are our most important contribution to the future of Oregon. We are grateful to the foundation for providing us with these additional funds because they will significantly improve students' lives and benefit Oregon for years to come.

"Those long-term benefits are difficult for students to keep in mind when the bills are due," he added.

Ray said that the additional $100,000 from the OSU Foundation would be used to support student diversity initiatives.

Undergraduate resident tuition and fees have risen approximately 17 percent for full-time OSU students in the last year - a situation that is being mirrored on college campuses in Oregon and throughout the U.S. A stagnant economy and rising costs have prompted large tuition increases in many states.

Oregon State University students collectively receive about $15 million in scholarships each year, so the $1 million boost represents an increase of nearly 7 percent in scholarship funding. Jim Reinmuth, the foundation's CEO, says the gift is derived from the Maurie D. Clark Fund, a discretionary account established through the estate of Clark, a strong supporter of OSU and a trustee with the foundation, who died in 2001.

"The OSU Foundation Board of Governors recognizes that needs of students are paramount at this time because of the increase in tuition rates," Reinmuth said. "The board was very enthusiastic in its support of the decision by the university to allocate the funds to students - and the majority to student scholarships."

News of the scholarship fund was well-received by OSU students. Andy Saultz, president of the Associated Students of Oregon State University, was particularly grateful for the emphasis on need-based scholarships.

"I've been in student government for three years and I have never seen this sense of urgency among students about financial matters," said Saultz, a junior from Portland majoring in political science. "A lot of students are desperate, so the timing of this couldn't be better.

"It would be great if others around the state could contribute to the fund as well," he added.

The university's leadership and private supporters are increasing commitments for need-based student aid. OSU President Ray recommended to the foundation that the discretionary Clark Fund be used for student support. This summer, Ray turned down the opportunity for a formal investiture at OSU after being named the institution's 14th president, instead earmarking $30,000 for need-based scholarship support.

Maurie D. Clark began his career in the timber industry and then co-founded Cole, Clark and Cunningham, an insurance company that became Rollins, Burdick, Hunter. He also developed real estate and was credited with helping revitalize Cannon Beach in the 1970s. Clark served in the U.S. Army during World War II in both the Pacific and European theaters.

He was interested in band scholarships, 4-H, oceanography, forestry and athletics, and supported OSU's LaSells Stewart Center and the expansion of the Valley Library.

The university's Financial Aid Office will be evaluating the requirements of OSU students with the greatest financial need, and distributing funds over the next four terms, including summer session. OSU students interested in learning more about the University Supplemental Financial Aid Fund should the university's Financial Aid Office at 541-737-2241.

Contributions to the fund are welcome and may be made by contacting the OSU Foundation at 541-737-4218.