Scholarships crucial to recruiting, retaining diverse students

In spring 2001 Sarah Kresse, a high school senior with a 3.98 GPA, had her choice of colleges to attend in the fall. One day the Sunnyside native got a letter saying she had been selected to receive a four-year scholarship to cover tuition, room and board, and living expenses at the University of Washington through the Costco Scholarship Fund.

“They made my decision for me,” says Kresse, now a UW sophomore studying wildlife science who says she is happy to be a Husky. “I feel really blessed.”

Keeping high-achieving, underrepresented minority students like Kresse, whose mother is Mexican-American, in the state is the Costco Scholarship Fund’s purpose. Such scholarship support is crucial to minority student recruitment and retention—on average, only 38 percent of underrepresented minority students who are not offered some form of scholarship or grant support enroll at the University of Washington. Since it began in 2000, the Costco program has raised more than $2.6 million, covering four years of tuition and living expenses for 133 undergraduates at the University of Washington.

Regent Jeff Brotman, ‘64, chairman of Costco Wholesale, founded the scholarship program with his colleagues, knowing that scholarship recipients won’t be the only ones to benefit. “The reality is, we live in a diverse world. As an employer, what could make more sense than to help educate a workforce that reflects the real world?” he asks.

Donations for the Costco Scholarship Fund will be raised at the Third Annual Costco Scholarship Breakfast on Thursday, Sept. 19, featuring actor Edward James Olmos as guest speaker. The annual breakfast is so successful that it has sparked similar fund-raising efforts by other Washington businesses. The Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery of Woodinville sponsored a fund-raising dinner and concert on July 19 for the Chateau Ste. Michelle Scholarship Fund, which will support underrepresented minority students at the UW and WSU. In addition, Safeco Insurance and the Seattle Mariners are teaming up for a black-tie scholarship fund-raiser at Safeco Field in January to support underrepresented minorities at the UW.

President Richard McCormick says raising money for diversity scholarships is a priority for the University, and he’s pleased to see that other individuals and businesses are making it a priority, too. “Diversity is important not only to the University of Washington but to the communities we serve. The leaders of the Costco Scholarship Fund recognize that we cannot afford to waste the talents of any of our citizens,” he said.

For more information on diversity scholarships, contact the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at (206) 685-1980.