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  • Scholarships in exchange for community service

    Many students want to volunteer and serve their community just for the sake of doing good. But some institutes of higher ed are starting to reward these efforts with scholarships to sweeten the deal. Learn how one South Carolina university put this win-win idea into action.

    Setting: Higher Education

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    Organization/people involved

    Kathy Woodard, Program Coordinator
    Susan Limber, Faculty Director
    Clemson University’s Community Scholars Program
    Clemson, South Carolina, U.S.A.

    What they did

    In 2005, South Carolina’s Clemson University sold some land and earmarked an endowment to support service scholarships for students. They created a program, Community Scholars, to give students scholarship funds totaling about $3,000 each for their completion of 56 service hours per semester. The service can be done in almost any setting: on campus, in the community, in students’ hometowns during school breaks, or even abroad. The program also has an academic component, wherein students take four one-credit courses on different aspects of service.

    How you can do it

    Clemson University had two important things in place from the start—support and money—but a service scholarship program like this can be implemented at most universities, even under different circumstances.


    Since 2005, 66 Community Scholars have participated or are currently in the program. As of Spring 2014, 38 scholars have graduated and contributed a combined 4,256 hours of community service.

    Kathy and Susan believe that some of the program’s deepest impacts can be seen in how the experience shapes Scholars after college:

    Big Takeaways

    Kathy advises that your program be very specific to your student population. As higher education changes—as students want to graduate more quickly and begin working, and as more nontraditional and part-time students enroll, for example—your scholarship program should be a needs match.

    Susan concurs and emphasizes the importance of a needs assessment to get the clearest idea of what you’ll need. She also says the right program includes a healthy balance of faculty and administrative guidance while being student-influenced.


    Photo credit: Nazareth College on Flickr

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