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$42 million new contribution from the planned $500 million over the next 10 years from Jack and Renate Schuler
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$42 million new contribution from the planned $500 million over the next 10 years from Jack and Renate Schuler

A partnership between Union College and the Schuler Education Foundation will invest $42 million to enroll significantly more low-income students.

Union is among the first five schools selected to participate in the Schuler Access Initiative, which aims to enroll more underserved students at the nation’s top liberal arts colleges.

Jack Schuler, co-founder of the Schuler Education Foundation, will spend $500 million over the next 10 years as part of the initiative. He wants to include up to 20 liberal arts schools that will match the funds, for a potential nationwide investment of $1 billion.

The Schuler Access Initiative, biotech entrepreneur Jack Schuler’s ten-year, $500 million effort to boost enrollment among undocumented and low-income students at up to twenty liberal arts colleges, has committed $50 million to Bates College in Lewiston, Maine; $50 million to Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota; $25 million to Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio; $25 million to Tufts University in Massachusetts; and $20 million to Union College in Schenectady, New York.

Jack Schuler is a healthcare leader who since the 1990s has made a fortune investing in biotech startups that span everything from managing medical waste to providing rare disease therapies to testing humans for COVID-19 and creating a device that detects the virus’s particles in the air.

Forbes in 2021 estimated Schuler’s net worth to be $1.1 billion. He is intensely competitive in business, but he’s also a philanthropist who has helped thousands of under-represented and underserved teens get a quality liberal arts college education through the Schuler Scholar Program and Schuler Education Foundation.

Schuler and his wife, Renate, signed the Giving Pledge, promising to donate all their considerable fortune to charity, in their case the Schuler Education Foundation.

Each institution will be required to match the grant 1:1 over the next five years to provide permanent endowment funds for expanded financial aid for students who are eligible for Pell Grants, low income, and undocumented or have DACA status.

Union originally planned to raise $20 million over five years. However, nearly 200 donors helped the College hit its $20 million fundraising goal years ahead of schedule.

By reaching its $20 million goal, the College will receive a $22 million match from the Schuler Foundation.

 “I’m excited that we have done it,” said President David R. Harris. He and his wife, Anne, made a gift to establish the Harris Family Endowed Scholarship.

“Not in five years. Not in one year. This community stepped up and said we care so much about creating opportunity, we can achieve this goal in six or seven months. So thank you, Union College, for everything you have done and thank you for everything you will do for students for years to come.”

One of the donors was Dr. Estelle Cook-Sampson, a member of Union’s Class of 1974.

“It behooves us to have a social conscience about how we use the financial resources we have at hand,” said Cooke-Sampson. A radiologist, she retired last year as director of the Women’s Imaging Center at Howard University Hospital.

“I believe in the mission of the Schuler Foundation, and I feel a tremendous sense of honor that Union was chosen as one of the institutions. I think this scholarship opportunity will help toward obtaining equity for all.”

The $42 million will benefit students who qualify for a Pell Grant, the federal program that provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate students.

Currently, Union supports an average of 75 students with Pell Grants in every newly enrolled class. Most Pell Grants are awarded to students with a total family annual income below $20,000.

At Union, Pell students are typically among the highest achieving students in the classroom and are leaders across campus.

Beginning with next fall’s class, the Schuler grants will allow the College to add nine students who are eligible for Pell Grants. Ultimately, the number of Pell Grant students will increase at Union by 13 percent for 40 additional students across all four years.

“Pell students are good students on their own merit,” said trustee David J. Breazzano, a donor to the Schuler initiative. “The only challenge they have is their families are unable to pay the sticker price. We’re giving opportunities to people who otherwise wouldn’t have those opportunities.”

Founded in 1795 as the first planned campus in the country, Union is an independent four-year liberal arts college with engineering. Located in Schenectady, N.Y., the College, with 2,200 full-time undergraduates, is consistently ranked among the nation’s top liberal arts institutions.

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