In May 2008, The Bernard Osher Foundation made a historic pledge to the California Community Colleges, giving an unprecedented lead gift of $25 million to establish the California Community Colleges Scholarship Endowment (CCCSE). The announcement of this commitment came from Mr. Bernard Osher himself, as he stood alongside then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, expressing his support for students and his desire that these funds would help enable them to achieve their educational goals.
This tremendous display of support from the Osher Foundation also came with a challenge: for the colleges and the Foundation to join together in a campaign to raise additional matching funds. This partnership would transform the Osher Foundation’s one-time gift into a long-lasting, permanent scholarship fund available to students seeking an education from the community colleges.
Students from the launch press conference in May 2008.
The Foundation, in partnership with the Network of California Community College Foundations, sprung into action, convening more than 90 California Community Colleges, their foundations, California corporations, philanthropists, and many other mission-aligned partners for a three-year fundraising campaign. The Network played a key role in connecting with local college foundations and improving statewide coordination.
Nearly $30 million was raised through this collaborative fundraising effort from donors throughout the state, which was matched with an approximate $15 million additional donation from the Osher Foundation. Combining these dollars with the initial $25 million lead gift created an aggregate $70 million scholarship endowment, the largest gift to a community college system in the nation — and one that and one that would forever change the lives of students across the California Community Colleges.
We'd really like our Osher challenge to launch a new chapter in higher education in California.
Mary G.F. Bitterman, President of The Bernard Osher Foundation
In its first year (Fall 2009 and Winter 2010 semesters), the CCCSE Osher Scholarships provided more than 1,250 students up to $1,000 for use in support of their education, including textbooks, equipment, uniforms, and other needs. Today, CCCSE Osher Scholarships continue to reward students with the highest need and demonstrated persistence in their educational goals. Each year, colleges award more than 3,000 students with scholarships of up to $550 a semester, supporting those struggling to make ends meet and stay in school as affordability continues to become a growing barrier to student success.
The Foundation continues to provide financial stewardship of the CCCSE and distributes the scholarships every year, carrying forth Mr. Osher’s vision and making the possibility of a better life a reality for generations of students to come.