Why isn’t tuition assistance enough
to help students succeed?

Foundations & Other Philanthropies

Yawkey Scholars Program

Yawkey Scholars Program


For many years, the Yawkey Foundation offered tuition assistance to low-income students through its Yawkey Scholars Program. Although the support was helpful, students couldn’t afford to explore all the opportunities their colleges offered, and many continued to struggle with academic, personal, and financial issues. The Yawkey Foundation felt that they could do a better job of supporting their Yawkey Scholars and reached out to the team at The Philanthropic Initiative to tap into their decades of experience managing scholarship programs and advising students.


Our vision was inspired by what the team at the Yawkey Foundation had already accomplished. Drawing from that history, and our research and experience creating and managing college success programs, we worked with the Yawkey Foundation to revamp the Yawkey Scholars Program to include several new components:

  • Advisor mentoring. Each Yawkey Scholar is matched with an advisor. Students are encouraged to check in with their advisor quarterly to discuss how things are going for them at college. Advisors are there to support Scholars and help them to identify and access resources if they have academic, financial, social or other problems.
  • Opportunities Fund. Yawkey Scholars now have access to the same types of opportunities as their more affluent peers through the Yawkey Opportunities Fund. The Fund provides students, who are meeting the program’s requirements, with flexible financial support to allow them to participate in enriching activities that help them achieve their full potential in college. Opportunities Fund grants – up to $2,500 per year per student – have been provided for career development, summer or winter courses, books and supplies, study abroad, travel and post-graduate preparation.
  • Peer and Professional Networking. Through workshops, career panels, community service, newsletters and gatherings, Yawkey Scholars build connections with peers and professionals that offer a support system and help them to meet their academic and career objectives.


The Yawkey Scholars are thriving. Since 2005, the Yawkey Scholars Program has provided more than $14 million in scholarship support to over 350 Scholars as they pursue a college education and has maintained a 93% graduation rate. This is an especially inspiring achievement considering that most Yawkey Scholars are first-generation college students or come from low-income households. Graduation rates for those whose parents never went to college – nearly 50% of today’s college students – are notably lower than the rates for students who represent the second, third, or fourth generation in their family to attend college.

The Scholars say the new components of the program provide a significant advantage to helping them achieve their personal and academic goals. One Scholar from Boston University reports, “As a freshman in college, I struggled a lot with adapting to the classes and the new way of life. In my first semester, I found myself stressing out over work, school, and social life. However, my advisor provided me with excellent advice and gave me someone to talk to when I needed it most.”

Though many of these high-performing students probably would have entered college without the scholarship, they would have graduated with considerable debt. The majority of 2012 graduates from private four-year colleges had student loans averaging $29,000. In contrast, Yawkey Scholars will graduate with minimal debt, and few will accrue more than $10,000 in loans.

A Yawkey Scholar at Boston University explains, “The Program has meant the difference between barely getting by and fully enjoying every opportunity my school offers.”