Portland Community College student Ariel Larson had received two invitations to become a member of Phi Theta Kappa, but she couldn’t accept either because she faced financial hardship.
“I would love to be a member, but I can’t afford the membership fee,” she explained, adding that she had also turned down a membership invitation previously for the same reason while attending Umpqua Community College.
“I’m a full time student, disabled, and unable to work right now. I don’t have a car, I don’t have any scholarships…I have nothing,” Ariel said. “If I somehow had the money to spend, it has to go to pay bills. I can’t justify spending it on a membership even though I want to.”
But thanks to a membership scholarship, she’ll get to be a member of Phi Theta Kappa after all. Portland Community College’s Southeast Campus chapter, Beta Pi Rho, has a membership scholarship in place to help students just like Ariel.
“Our campus has the highest diversity rate in any college in the state of Oregon and also has a very high population of students from a low socioeconomic background,” said advisor Nicole Seery. “Our chapter, much like our campus, tries to provide and serve our students to the best of our ability and give assistance when needed.”
She said the chapter had established the scholarship in 2009, but it was never utilized or supported financially. So when Nicole became the chapter advisor 14 years ago, she made restoring the member scholarship a priority, although it took more than a year to build up the funds.
“Now, we have enough members joining every term to easily maintain our scholarships,” Nicole added. “We set aside $420 a year from our membership fees that go toward membership scholarships and also fundraise over the summer and fall terms to help support our budget.”
The chapter’s membership scholarship has been covering the international and regional fees and waiving the chapter fee for four students annually. However, due to the success of their membership enrollment, Beta Pi Rho added an additional membership for both the winter and spring terms for a total of six membership scholarships each year.
Portland Community College is in line with other colleges and foundations making membership affordable for students, including PTK’s own Golden Opportunity Scholarships.
Dr. Joe May, who serves as chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District in Texas, set aside $100,000 in the annual budget to cover anything that may be seen as a barrier to Phi Theta Kappa membership for the students in his colleges.
Similarly, Dr. Jack Bryant, president of Redlands Community College in Oklahoma, helped his college establish a membership scholarship through its foundation in an effort to make membership more affordable to students.
The Golden Opportunity Scholarship is Phi Theta Kappa’s first scholarship designed to increase access to the benefits of membership by helping students pay for membership when they can’t afford the fees.
Nominations for the Golden Opportunity Scholarship will be accepted now through March 15. Only advisors may submit a nomination, and you may now do so through your Eligible Student Roster. Simply click on the name of the student you wish to nominate and check the nomination box.