Campus & Community

Momentum Scholarship Challenge aims to build financial support for undergraduates

“I was set up to fail, yet I fought.”

University of Denver senior Nicole Paulsen grew up in modest circumstances, often going without the things many kids have. She lost both parents by the time she was 10 years old, which left her stepfather to raise Nicole and her two younger siblings. He took her in, providing a safe space for her to learn and grow. She credits this man who had no biological ties or obligations to her for much of the success she has achieved.

Paulsen was a 4.0 student throughout high school, involved in service clubs and academic organizations. Her passion for social justice and equality, along with her desire to give back to her community through advocacy work, led her to consider law as a career path. Without the help of others, she says, she would have been unable to see a light at the end of the tunnel. She wants to pay that forward by helping others.

Now a political science and socio-legal studies major at DU, this first-generation college student recognizes the pivotal role of scholarships in her educational and study-abroad journey.

“Scholarships gave me the opportunity to see places I had only dreamed of before and to further my knowledge of the Chinese language,” says Paulsen, who studied abroad in Beijing during her junior year. “They made it possible for me to live my dreams both within the University and in the outside world.”

Like Paulsen, a majority of University of Denver students consider scholarships central to their DU experience. Scholarships give them the chance to pursue their passions at a university that values their aspirations. By removing the question of affordability, scholarships also fuel the student experience of study abroad, experiential learning and interdisciplinary collaboration.

The University of Denver attracts a talented and diverse group of students seeking a transformative educational experience. Two-thirds of DU students are unable to meet the total cost of attendance even after receiving financial aid. The University aspires to meet the full need of all students but currently is unable to do so. Demographic shifts, the rising cost of education and dwindling government support make affordability a significant issue for families — and a greater challenge than ever before.

The generosity of alumni, parents and friends has created remarkable progress over the last decade in increasing need-based financial aid. The University is committed to doing even more. When DU invests in scholarships to leverage donor involvement, scholarship availability increases exponentially. A recent campaign resulted in more than $100 million in new support from thousands of philanthropists. Even so, many talented students still struggle to meet the cost of a DU education.

As a result of conversations with the University community and alumni about the growing need for scholarship funding, Chancellor Rebecca Chopp launched the Momentum Scholarship Challenge earlier this year. The scholarship matching program will endow $45 million in new scholarship funding by 2018 in an effort to eliminate the need gap for undergraduate students — the average of $6,500 a student is unable to pay even after receiving aid.

“It is very important that we make the University of Denver experience available to promising students who work so hard to earn admission and join our family but do not have the financial means to attend,” Chopp says. “The Momentum Scholarship Challenge will help make that a reality.”

Through the Momentum Challenge, DU is using its resources to inspire new philanthropy that will meet an increasing measure of students’ demonstrated financial need. The focus of the Momentum Challenge is endowed gifts to scholarships with a minimum of $50,000, matching outright gifts at 50 percent and planned gifts at 25 percent.

“The Momentum Scholarship Challenge can inspire philanthropists to join the University of Denver in supporting our students’ educational aspirations,” says Provost Gregg Kvistad.

Now in her fourth year at DU, Paulsen looks forward to making a difference in the world by giving a voice to those who need it and creating a safe environment for everyone. “Through my years at DU, I have chaired the Student Coalition to Eradicate Sexual Assault and served as vice president of the DU Debate Union,” she says. “Success in both these areas has allowed me to change the culture of safety on campus and speak on ideas that truly matter in our world.”

Paulsen draws a direct connection between her scholarship and her success at the University and beyond. “Donors make it possible for someone like me to have confidence and a real and fighting chance at becoming successful in life.”




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