The importance of public higher education hits close to home for Bloomsburg University President David L. Soltz and his wife, Robbie. That’s why their commitment to It’s Personal: The Campaign for Bloomsburg University is especially personal to them.
Strong advocates for high-quality, affordable education, the couple established the David and Roberta Soltz Scholarship, an endowment funded with a $100,000 blended gift. The scholarship is designated to help meet the financial need of high-achieving students enrolled in the sciences, so they may graduate on time.
After obtaining their undergraduate and doctoral degrees in biology, both pursued successful, rewarding careers. “We are both products of public higher education,” David Soltz says, “and we believe in its value and mission.”
The tradition of public higher education extends back even further for the BU president, whose mother and father graduated in 1943 from Ball State University, Muncie, Ind., known then as Ball State Teachers College. “I saw my parents achieve success after attending a public university, and I always believed I’d have the opportunity do the same,” he says.
In the late 1960s, when Soltz was an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, the state was contributing more than 75 percent of tuition costs to help students receive a high-quality education without incurring a high level of debt. However, he has seen firsthand how that funding model has changed and the effect it has on students.
As a professor at California State University, a public higher education system that predominantly serves low-income students, Soltz worked with many bright students who were committed to graduating from college, but were forced to put their dreams on hold because of their inability to pay their tuition. What troubled him most was the knowledge that these students had the work ethic and the dedication to be successful.
“Unfortunately, I saw far too many students who were nearly finished with their degrees, but were forced to drop out because they simply could not afford to pay,” he says. “State institutions do their best to keep costs low and quality high, but sometimes it’s just not enough.”
Focus on Scholarships
One of the It’s Personal campaign’s major priorities is to fund scholarships, ensuring that Bloomsburg University can continue to enroll students based on their ability, not their ability to pay. That’s why they designated their gift to help upper division students who are maintaining a grade-point average of 3.5 or higher while truly facing financial need.
Kira England, a recent recipient of the David and Roberta Soltz Scholarship, graduated in December 2015 and is attending prerequisite courses at BU to prepare for graduate school. England lives in Bloomsburg with her husband and their 2-year-old daughter and was working, with her husband’s support, to pay for her education without taking loans.
“When you learn you were selected for a scholarship that was established by the president of the university and his wife, it’s very affirming,” England says. “It felt like all my hard work had paid off.”
The scholarship also significantly helps the young family. “With the cost of raising a small child and paying for my education, this was a very big relief for us,” adds England. “It also helped me to make the decision to pursue my graduate studies immediately.”
“As the president of this university, it was important to me to lead by example,” Soltz says. “Public higher education is important to all of us at Bloomsburg University. We have the opportunity to give back and help students who remind many of us of our younger selves.”•
Tom Schaeffer is communications coordinator for the Bloomsburg University Foundation.
Learn more about the It’s Personal campaign at itspersonal.bloomu.edu.