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Acknowledging the growing need for financial aid

Cedar Crest’s scholarship program grows, serves more students with more money

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June 1st, 2017
Keynote speaker and 2012 scholarship recipient George Alfano addresses Cedar Crest’s 2016 recipients at the annual awards ceremony about his time at the Erickson Living community and how the scholarship impacted his future.

Keynote speaker and 2012 scholarship recipient George Alfano addresses Cedar Crest’s 2016 recipients at the annual awards ceremony about his time at the Erickson Living community and how the scholarship impacted his future.

In May, nearly 30 student who work in Cedar Crest’s restaurants graduated from the Pompton Plains, N.J., community’s scholarship program. A ceremony at the community’s Belmont Performing Arts Center commemorated the occasion.

Over the course of two years, this year’s class of students has worked toward scholarships to help fund their higher education at a four-year institution, community college, or technical school.

To receive the scholarships, students must work 1,000 hours between their junior and senior years of high school in the dining services department at Cedar Crest. They must also have a graduating high school GPA of at least 2.0, remain in “good standing” as determined by their manager, and have been hired by September 30 of the summer preceding their junior year of high school.

But to Phyllis O’Reilly, who has lived at Cedar Crest for the past 11 years, the students do much more than meet requirements.

“I can’t say enough good things about what the students do for us,” Phyllis says. “They raise our morale. They give the best service we could possibly have. They will be a tremendous asset to society. [The scholarship program] is really worthwhile.”

A fix for financial aid

As a member of the philanthropy committee, she and fellow residents evaluate the community’s philanthropic efforts, including the scholarship fund, resident care fund, and staff appreciation fund. 

“We discuss what would be the best way to present our needs to the community,” she says. 

Specific to the scholarship fund, they evaluate each student to ensure he or she follows the program’s guidelines. 

The committee has also voted to increase the amount of the scholarship from $4,000—the amount from 2003 to 2012— to $4,800 in 2013, to $7,000 in 2015, and finally to $8,000 in 2016.

With the cost of higher education rising, a degree is often out of reach unless a student receives financial aid. In his February 12, 2013, State of the Union address, President Barack Obama acknowledged the problem when he said, “Skyrocketing costs price way too many young people out of a higher education or saddle them with unsustainable debt.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of students receiving aid has been on the rise. Percentages vary depending on the type of school (public, private nonprofit, private for-profit), but during the 2013–2014 school year, it ranged between 83% and 89% for four-year institutions and 78% to 92% for two-year institutions—all first-time, full-time degree- or certificate-seeking undergraduate students.

In his address, Obama continued by asking Congress to change the Higher Education Act. He also proposed reform to the federal aid system that has been in effect since the early 1970s and, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, has “failed to keep up with the times.”

Return on investment

Cedar Crest residents not only acknowledge the growing need for tuition assistance, they also value the students who work in the community’s five restaurants, many of whom have returned to work at Cedar Crest in other capacities such as in nursing, sales, administration, or back to their roots in dining services. 

Phyllis says seeing the scholarship at work firsthand has been truly gratifying. For example, she says, when she used the on-campus rehabilitation center in continuing care earlier this year, she discovered her nurse had taken advantage of the scholarship to attain his degree and returned to Cedar Crest to start his career.

“They are always pleasant. They always greet you with a smile. You can talk with them about anything at all,” Phyllis says. “It’s almost as if there is no generational divide.”


Scholarship fund by the numbers

128,153 $ amount raised in 2016

21 # of recipients in 2016

29 # of recipients in 2017

8,000 $ of each scholarship award in 2017

1,000 # of hours students must work between junior and senior years of high school in dining services

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